Women dispose of Harvard and Dartmouth, move to 5-0 in league play
“These girls are on fire,” said Alicia Keys of Princeton women’s tennis, approximately. The No. 69 Tigers (16-5 overall, 5-0 Ivy League) came away with a surprisingly easy 5-2 win over No. 46 Harvard Saturday and then defeated Dartmouth by the same score on Sunday. They have now won eight straight matches, including the first five of the Ivy League schedule. The last year they accomplished either was 2010, when they won the last 10 matches of the regular season and ran the league table.
“Our team mantra is ‘proud of what’s done, but not satisfied,’” said junior Lindsay Graff. “It’s the first time since I’ve been here that we’re close to winning the Ivy League title, but we know the dangers of looking too far ahead.”
The match against the Crimson (10-6, 2-2) was supposed to be tight: a pivotal contest involving two of the top three teams in the league. What the large Lenz Tennis Center crowd got was domination. The duo of Graff and freshman Alanna Wolff took the first doubles match 8-5 and sophomores Emily Hahn and Amanda Muliawan followed suit to put Princeton up 1-0.
“Once we got the doubles point, we met as a team and said if we played assertively it wouldn’t go Harvard’s way,” said Graff.
Well, they must have done just that because it certainly did not go the Crimson’s way. Harvard dropped four of six first sets and the Tigers had the match won shortly thereafter when Graff, Wolff and freshman Dorothy Tang all completed straight set victories. Only the fifth court went to a third set, where junior Katie Goepel prevailed 6-2. The win makes it five in a row over Harvard, the longest streak against the Crimson in program history.
The team followed this up by taking care of business against Dartmouth (6-8, 2-2) the next day. The Big Green are by no measure a weak opponent, but the Tigers made it look as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Hahn and Muliawan made quick work of their Big Green opponents in an 8-1 win at second doubles. Tang and junior Joan Cannon won the point for the Tigers with their 8-4 win in the third slot. Princeton then took every first set of singles and there was talk of a sweep amongst the orange and black faithful. Graff, Wolff and Tang again provided the next three points and again Goepel pushed it to five, this time in straight sets. Taylor Ng and Melissa Matsuoka fought valiantly and salvaged a couple points for the Big Green.
“We knew they would be a tough team,” said Graff. “They’ve surprised us in past years. We’ve been able to gain confidence with each match. Everyone showed up to compete, that’s all we can ask for.”
Next weekend will see the conclusion of Ivy League play, and Princeton visits Cornell Friday before hosting Columbia Sunday. Cornell (7-7, 0-4) is among the weakest teams in the league and should not provide much of a challenge to the mighty Tigers. Columbia (15-3, 4-1), however, had kept pace with Princeton until its loss to Yale yesterday. Still, the No. 33 Lions are a quality squad, having dispatched Harvard 6-1 last weekend. Assuming both teams win their Friday matches against the bottom feeders of the league, the match will function as a playoff with the winner earning the Ivy League’s automatic NCAA berth.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Graff. “They beat us earlier this season at ECACs, but we’ve made a complete transformation since then, especially with regards to our team unity.”
It promises to be a fantastic event, and, lucky for the Tigers, will take place in the cozy confines of Lenz Tennis Center.
Men fall out of Ivy League contention with losses to Harvard and Dartmouth
Princeton could not ride the momentum from last week’s sweep and instead ended up with almost a perfect inversion of those results. Last Saturday, the Tigers (12-10 overall, 2-3 Ivy League) downed Yale 6-1. This Saturday, they lost 4-0 at Harvard. Last Sunday, Princeton beat Brown 4-3 after freshman Tom Colautti won his match in the third set. This Sunday, Princeton was edged out by Dartmouth when junior Zack McCourt lost his match in a third set tiebreak.
The Harvard (14-6, 3-1) match was a virtual must-win. No. 59 Princeton had dropped its first match to Penn and with Columbia tearing its opponents apart like the Lions they purport to be, the Tigers needed to run the table and beat Columbia in their final game to emerge as league champs. It was an unlikely scenario which now has been rendered irrelevant. The No. 31 Crimson, sporting two ranked duos, easily captured the doubles point. Princeton could do no better in singles, taking just a single first set. The middle of the Harvard lineup was too much for the Tigers to handle and the Crimson got straight set victories at positions three, four and five. The match was called at that point with McCourt and Colautti down in the second sets of their matches and senior Dan Davies tied 1-1 in his third set.
“Despite the final outcome, we had our chances and had we gotten the second set at No. 5, I really think it would have been interesting,” said head coach Billy Pate. “However, Harvard played a great doubles point and capitalized early on opportunities in singles. We battled back in some matches but needed one to turn in our favor.”
The gang regrouped and travelled to Hanover where an equally challenging matchup awaited against the No. 40 Big Green (16-5, 3-1). It would prove even more thrilling than the Brown match from a week ago. Dartmouth’s 26th-ranked pair of Cameron Ghorbani and Brendan Tannenbaum beat McCourt and freshman Alex Day 8-4 at first doubles. Senior Augie Bloom and Davies defeated their opponents 8-5 and the doubles point was in the hands of the freshmen Colautti and Josh Yablon. The comeback kids rallied from 7-5 down to force a tiebreaker. Down 5-2 in the tiebreaker, they willed their way to a win.
The teams split the first singles sets, with Princeton winning positions two through four. Colautti and Day eked out two-set wins, as did Dartmouth’s Diego Pedraza. The Tigers needed just one of the trio of three set matches to go their way to beat the Big Green overall. The quest got off to an inauspicious start: Yablon and Davies fell quickly to their opponents. It would come down to first singles with McCourt and Dartmouth’s Dovydas Sakinis. The whole match had been a series of runs. McCourt jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first set before falling in a demoralizing set loss. He fought off three match points down 5-4 in the second, before rattling off three straight games. Down 4-1 in the third, he again clawed back and then some. Breaking Sakinis left and right, McCourt took a 6-5 lead and would serve for the win. But now it was Sakinis’ turn to counter, and he did, forcing a tiebreaker. McCourt fell into a double match point situation down 6-4, but was able to even it. He fought off two more before earning and losing one of his own. Sakinis got his nth match point up 10-9 and finally finished off the feisty Tiger. Those in attendance knew they had just witnessed one of the tightest team battles collegiate tennis could offer.
“Quite simply, this was an incredible college match and it’s unfortunate either team had to be on the losing end of it,” said Pate. “I’m tremendously proud of the effort and poise our guys demonstrated. McCourt did a wonderful job battling back from 1-4 down in the third set. Both he and Sakinis had chances to seal the team win as both held multiple match points. Sometimes it’s a game of inches and it just didn’t go our way today. Nonetheless, we left it all out on the court and need to keep our heads up. We knew these were two evenly-matched squads and we expected this type of match. I give Dartmouth a lot of credit; they played well and are having one of their best seasons in many years. We’ll have a good week of practice and prepare for another tough match at home for senior day versus Cornell.”
The game Pate referenced will be on Friday at the Lenz Tennis Center against the No. 52 Big Red (11-7, 1-3). Princeton will then travel to New York City for its final game against No. 17 Columbia (18-1, 5-0), which has lost just a single singles match in league play this season.