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Photo: The HMT Family on Spring Break after our win against San Diego State. Parents, alums, players and coaches - thank you so much for joining us. With such great crowds, every match felt like a home contest. And a special thanks to our Friends group and all those who support Harvard Tennis for making this trip possible!
We have been back a little more than a week but it feels like a year ago we were basking in the glory of Southern California on Spring Break. Here in Boston, the lingering snow on the courts is making outdoor tennis feel far away.
After a rocky start to the trip in which our plane hit the de-icer machine on the runway (everyone was fine but we did make the local news...), we finally got to San Diego and enjoyed all the beauty of La Jolla and the surrounding area.
Our first opponent was a familiar foe from the past -- the Anteaters of UC-Irvine. All these years later, "Go Eaters" is still their favorite cheer. With only one day of outdoor hitting (due to our flight cancellation) and temperatures near 80 degrees, our guys knew it would be a challenge to play the well-tanned locals. The men of Harvard prevailed in a close 4-3 win. The doubles tipped the scale in our favor as we split the singles action. We managed to win all three doubles positions and notched impressive wins in the middle of the singles line-up at #3 Jean Thirouin, #4 Andy Zhou, and #5 Grant Solomon respectively.
Some great Spring Break traditions on spring break have developed over the years-- staying with amazing local families (thanks to the Curtins, Mandelbaums, Barbers, Holms and Moses' for your gracious hospitality!), hit-arounds at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, a trip to the Rancho Valencia farmers market, as well as an all-you-can eat Brazilian BBQ spot that has become a team favorite. Experience has taught us to schedule this meal well before any matches as the boys are slower (and heavier) the following day Below is a post-dinner photo with the boys putting back all the weight they lost on court.
A new tradition was started this year with a mid-week lift at an outdoor gym. Lifting outdoors under the watchful eye of the enormous Arnold Schwarzenegger picture in the background was a novelty for the Crimson, and an inspiration.
The final three days of the trip are when we compete in the 7th Annual San Diego Spring Break Tournament jointly hosted by University of San Diego and San Diego State. We actually helped start this event with these teams and aligned the tournament with our school break. The tournament has grown through the years and now features some top level teams from around the country like Oregon, Tulane, Iowa, Drake as well as the host teams. We played Iowa in the opening round and fell 4-2. Once again, we garnered the doubles point but fell hard in singles to a very veteran Big-10 team. This was only the second singles match of the season with our #1 player and captain Sebastian Beltrame in the line-up. It has been a frustrating year of injuries for our leader who has grappled with a string serious of injuries.
Sebastian was sidelined for the rest of the trip after Iowa, but our team rebounded against the Aztecs. Our doubles continued to roll and with the extra point in our win column we pounced on them at the top of the line-up with wins at #1, #2 and #4 (#3 was in the second set when the match was clinched). We saw great outdoor performances by Kenny Tao, Jean Thirouin and Andy Zhou.
On the final day we had our annual battle with the scrappy Drake Bulldogs. In what has become one of our favorite rivalries through the years - this years feisty contest didn't disappoint. Last year we stole the dog treats from the Bulldogs by winning 4-3 in the last match. This year, we rushed out to a quick lead by winning #1 doubles, and were up a break at #2 and #3 doubles. We had multiple match points on BOTH courts and found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Not our finest performance under pressure to be sure.
Singles had its own drama. We quickly fell behind 3-0 after Drake took the first and third singles line. But the tide starting turning in the Crimson favor. The crowd rallied behind Harvard's improved play. Jean Thirouin would capture the second singles slot and Grant Solomon would bring us back by winning at #5. Andy Zhou managed to scrap his way back from a set and 4-1 down in the second to take the set and pull ahead in the third set! The match would come down to third set tie-breaker #6 where Chris Morrow would face an excellent Bulldog competitor (who had played in their top three last year). Drake's Bayo Phillips would come up huge with some rocket serve and volley plays to take the day. It was an great match to be a part of and made us proud as coaches of the team's fight and resilience.
After garnering three wins this past weekend back in Boston against Louisiana and Buffalo and Amherst, the team is ready for the start of the Ivy season this Saturday at 2pm, April 1st in Hanover, NH. The following week will find the Crimson at home on Friday, April 7th against Brown at 2pm and then at Yale on Sunday, April 9th at 2pm. We are excited for the opportunities ahead and would love to see many of you there cheering us on!