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After a strong start to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship, the Harvard men’s tennis team lost a 4-3 nailbiter to Penn in the finals.
At the ECAC Championship, featuring seven of the eight Ivy League schools (minus Columbia), Harvard started the weekend against Brown. Brown came out swinging early, racking up a quick victory in doubles against senior Christopher Morrow and sophomore Lane Leschly. Freshman Brian Shi and sophomore Robert Wrzesinski were quick to strike back in doubles, though, evening the score before the Crimson dropped the final singles point.
Nonetheless, Brown couldn’t manage to hold the momentum heading into singles as Harvard earned two victories on the backs of freshmen Steven Sun and Brian Shi. Freshman Harry Walker sealed the match with a singles victory to give the Crimson a 4-2 victory, extending Harvard’s dominance over Brown to 82-7 all-time.
“We fought hard against Brown after a slow start in doubles,” Walker said. “Brian and Steven played very well right out of the gate and won handily.”
The Crimson then met Princeton in the semifinals. After dropping the first match behind Morrow and Leschly, doubles pairs senior Andy Zhou and junior Logan Weber and Shi and Wrzesinski respectively won their doubles matches 6-4 and 7-6(5).
Once again, the Crimson’s dominant singles play from freshmen help carried the team into the finals, as Sun and Wrzesinski notched wins against Princeton before Walker once again finished off the match with a 6-4, 6-3 singles victory. The victory pulled Harvard ahead 55-46 all time against the Tigers.
The Crimson were riding a particular high after the match, as Walker explained, “We made a great doubles adjustment against Princeton and had better energy than any other match this season.”
More than ready for the finals, the hot-handed Harvard team advanced to a finals round matchup against equally hot Penn, who had just upset first-seeded Dartmouth in the semifinals. Unlike the past matches, this time Harvard drew first blood with a doubles victory.
The euphoria wouldn’t last too long, as Penn swept straight-sets victories against Zhou, Wrzesinski, and Walker to pull ahead to 3-1, putting Harvard on the brink of elimination.
Hanging by a thread, Sun and Shi continued their weekend heroics in singles winning their matches 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 and 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 respectively to even the match at 3-3. Harvard’s tournament hopes came down to the final point, which it dropped 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 to ultimately hand Penn the ECAC Championship.
Sun’s win against Penn extended his singles record on the season to 6-3 and 7-4 overall and more impressively continued his unbeaten singles streak for the spring.
Following the match, Walker remained positive. “Even though we started strong against Penn in the finals by winning the doubles point, we came up a little short in singles…[w]e all fought as hard as we could and did an amazing job supporting each other on court,” Walker said. “It really just came down to few missed opportunities and execution errors against Penn, but we know exactly what to work on for next time when we play them in April.”
Looking ahead, the Crimson return to the Murr Center on Sunday, February 24 to face off against Memphis.
March has the team traveling to San Diego for the San Diego Spring Classic. They will then finish out the rest of the season against remaining Ivy League opponents in April and May.
-Staff writer Shuvom N. Sadhuka can be reached at email@example.com
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