Thursday, May 04, 2017

HMT News: Ivy Champs! Crimson downs Tigers and Quakers in final weekend

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Dear Crimson Friends and Family,

Heading into the final Ivy weekend, HMT needed to notch wins against both Princeton and Penn to grab a share of the Ivy Title. To set the stage, both teams had beaten us earlier in the year at ECACs. 

Against Princeton, the weather turned wet and we went down into the dungeon of Jadwin on their lightning fast courts. Despite a long warm-up, we could barely make a return for the first few games in doubles. We were late on everything. The home team had a decided advantage. But our doubles acumen once again proved pivotal. Morrow and Weber a.k.a. "the gnats" swarmed all over the net to give us one of the doubles matches at #3. Our #1 tandem of Brian Yeung and Kenny Tao would earn us the doubles win with their forceful play and fast hands.

With the doubles point in hand, we settled in for a long singles slog. Princeton would prove too tough at the top of the line-up garnering wins at #1 and #2. Kenny Tao would lose his first Ivy match to an inspired senior Alex Day at the second position. Sebastian Beltrame would lose a tough three-setter to their stalwart senior Tom Colautti at #1 singles. Fortunately, the middle of the line-up would hold steady. Jean Thirouin locked down the #3 position in straight sets with his patient and tactical play and Andy Zhou would also win in straights at #5 playing a more inspired, aggressive brand of tennis. With Princeton nabbing the #6 spot, the entire match came down to Brian Yeung at #4. Brian had won the first set going away 6-1 by serving and volleying and pressuring his Tiger opponent to hit passing shot after passing shot from his weaker one-handed wing. After dropping a sloppy second set, Brian would storm back with his aggressive style and get up a break of serve. With some nifty returns of his own, Brian would break serve to clinch the victory and send the small but vocal Crimson crowd into a frenzy.  

A special thanks to the alums who came out to Princeton and stuck it out in Jadwin - Marshall Burroughs '94 with his daughter, as well as Mac McAnulty '14 and Henry Steer '15. And Steve Dittmann '71 - who also came to the Penn match! Thanks for all your support. 

On the final day of the season, we had our first beautiful spring day (no wind, no rain, no clouds) to face the Penn Quakers. This match has developed into a fierce rivalry with some fantastic play from both teams. In the earlier contest in February, the Quakers edged us in a four-hour epic battle. This time, too, the match would have a razor-thin margin. And like last time, the doubles point would go to Penn putting us in a big 1-0 hole. Where were we going to find four singles points?

The front three courts featuring the #1, #3 and #5 positions would all go in quick straight set matches. Penn grabbed #1 singles while Jean Thirouin at #3 saved his best tennis of the season with an inspired 6-1, 6-0 performance against a hard serving Penn foe. Jean finished the season with a remarkable 16-4 record in singles and was the anchor of the singles line-up. Andy Zhou would also race out to victory at #5 winning 6-2, 6-2. Andy made real strides by returning to his aggressive style of play with big first serves and attacking groundstroke game that often saw him finish points at the net. His courage was rewarded at the end of the season with two big wins on the weekend.  

On the other bank of courts, the matches were much tighter. Chris Morrow had upped his game and put together one of his better performances on the year to win 6-2, 6-3 at the #6 position. Chris had been struggling to find his game and this win was a direct result of his commitment to go after his opponent. Now up 3-2 in the overall match score, we needed one more victory to clinch the title. Brian Yeung was down a set and a break at #4. The match was looking like it would be tied at 3-3. With his Quaker opponent serving for the match up 5-4 in the second set, Brian unleashed a few lethal backhands and managed to break back and force a tiebreaker. This was an important momentum shift as it took some pressure off Kenny Tao at #2 to win it for the Crimson. Kenny was battling Josh Pompan (son of HMT legend Don Pompan '81). Josh has been a Crimson killer. He is an amazing competitor and has the uncanny knack of outsmarting his foes, including notching wins against most of our line-up. Kenny had won the first set in a nip-and-tuck tiebreaker and then pulled ahead in the second. Kenny's laser forehand and targeted serve would tilt the battle in his favor. Finally, Kenny would break for a 7-6, 6-2 victory clinching a share of the Ivy Title.  

Here is a video of the magical match point and the team storming the court! Pure joy. 

With a 6-1 record in the Ivy League, Harvard tied Cornell and Columbia for the league title. While is extremely rare to have a three-way tie, it also happened on the women's side as HWT captured a share of the title along with Cornell and Dartmouth. Congrats to Harvard Women's Tennis on their amazing season!  

Best from Boston,
Andrew and Dave 

Please don't include me in future emails.