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Bulldogs Gearing Up for Critical Stage in Ivy League Play

Martin Svenning. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Martin Svenning. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

No. 65 Yale Travels to Dartmouth for Final Away Match, Renews Rivalry with No. 22 Harvard

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – With two weekends remaining in conference play, the Yale men's tennis team has reached a critical stage if it wants to keep its hopes of an Ivy League title alive.  Currently ranked No. 4 in the Ivy League standings, No. 57 Yale (16-5, 2-2 Ivy) is preparing for its final away match of the season, which will be against Dartmouth (9-11, 1-3 Ivy) on Friday at 2:00 p.m.  The Bulldogs will then have a day to rest before returning to their home courts on Sunday to challenge perennial rival No. 22 Harvard (16-4, 4-0 Ivy), with this match also beginning at 2:00 p.m.

The Elis come into these two pivotal matches on the heels of another mixed weekend in Ancient Eight play.  While Yale's dramatic upset win over No. 51 Cornell was largely responsible for its eight-spot rise in the national rankings, from No. 65 to No. 57, the squad also suffered a loss to No. 47 Columbia.  At No. 4, Yale currently trails Harvard, No. 48 Princeton and Columbia in the Ivy League standings.  The Bulldogs are poised to rise in the rankings, however, if they put in strong results in their upcoming matches. 

To do so, the Elis will likely have to summon their best form in doubles play to acquire an early advantage against the Big Green and the Crimson. Leading the charge will be Yale's No. 1 duo of senior captain Daniel Hoffman and classmate Marc Powers.  Hoffman and Powers have won two of their last three matches together, with the lone loss coming in a close match against the No. 69 tandem in the country, the Columbia team of Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur.  Adding to the experience that Hoffman and Powers bring to the court will be Yale's No. 2 pairing of junior Patrick Chase and senior John Huang.  So far in conference play, the members of the No. 3 doubles team for Yale have rotated among freshmen Jason Brown and Martin Svenning, sophomore Matt Saiontz and senior Zachary Dean 

In singles, the Bulldogs will be looking to harken back to their impressive matches against Cornell and Penn for inspiration.  Huang, at No. 1 singles, is in promising form, having won his last three matches.  In the match against Columbia, he recorded Yale's sole win, and it came against Winston Lin, ranked No. 60 at the time.  In the match against Harvard, Powers will be looking to maintain his undefeated record at home in league matches, as will Svenning, who raced to a three-match winning streak to start the Ivy League season.  At No. 3 singles, Hoffman will look to use his experience and steady play to seal a point for Yale, while Brown and Dean will be playing at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, respectively.

Though Dartmouth has had mixed results in conference matches so far, its lone win, impressively, came against a tough Columbia squad.  The Big Green is currently tied with Brown at No. 6 in the Ivy League standings. 

Harvard, the defending Ivy League champion and the current top-ranked team in the league standings, is on an eleven-match winning streak dating all the way back to mid-February.  The Crimson is unbeaten in conference play, having already defeated the two teams ranked at No. 2 and No. 3, Princeton and Columbia, respectively.  That said, Yale's famous rivalry with Harvard is apt to make Sunday's match an emotionally-charged one, and the seniors on both teams, in particular, will be motivated in their last chance to participate in the storied Harvard-Yale rivalry.   

The Elis also have the extra motivation of wanting to reverse last year's results against both teams.  In the 2011-12 season, the Bulldogs succumbed to 5-2 defeats against both Dartmouth and Harvard.  Both matches were extremely competitive, however, as they featured several tense doubles matches and several three-set singles matches.

Report by Robert Batista '15, Yale Sports Publicity