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No. 54 Yale Surges into Ivy League Season on Four-Match Winning Streak

John Huang. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
John Huang. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Elis Set to Host No. 51 Princeton and Penn on Opening Ivy Weekend

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Ivy League season has arrived, and the Yale men's tennis team finds itself in superb form on the eve of this year's opener against No. 51 Princeton.  No. 54 Yale (14-3, 0-0 Ivy) will look to extend its current winning streak to five matches when the squad faces the Tigers at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday at the Elis' home courts.  The Bulldogs' second Ancient Eight match will take place less than 24 hours later, when they host Penn at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.  

Yale's impressive record so far this season—its best in recent years—bodes well for the team's quest to win the Ivy League title.  In addition to their current four-match unbeaten run, the Elis have won 10 of their last 11 matches.  During this stretch, the Bulldogs have achieved four shutouts and two 4-3 wins, which indicates their ability both to overpower opponents and to perform well under pressure in close matches.  Furthermore, Yale will have a home-court advantage in four conference matches this season.  The Bulldogs have yet to lose at home this year, having put together a perfect 8-0 record at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.  In fact, the Elis have only dropped four total singles matches at home, and zero doubles matches. 

Despite their many successes this season, the Bulldogs are likely to face stiff resistance from fellow schools in a highly competitive Ivy League.  Entering conference play, five Ancient Eight squads are ranked in the top 75 in the country.  Leading the way is No. 18 Harvard, the defending Ivy League champion, followed by No. 40 Columbia, No. 48 Cornell, Princeton and Yale.  Brown, Dartmouth and Penn are all unranked, but all have talented lineups. 

Yale's perfect doubles record at home is likely to come under immediate fire this weekend, particularly in the match against Princeton.  The Tigers have only lost the doubles point three times this season, out of 16 total matches.  At No. 1 doubles, the Bulldogs' No. 74 duo of senior captain Daniel Hoffman and senior Marc Powers will likely face Princeton's No. 33 tandem of Zack McCourt and Matija Pecotic in what promises to be a scintillating match between two seasoned doubles teams.  Meanwhile, Yale's perennial No. 2 pairing of junior Patrick Chase and senior John Huang will look to anchor the Bulldogs' doubles efforts.

A promising pattern that has emerged from the Elis' matches this season is their consistency and resiliency in singles play.  The Bulldogs have won at least four singles matches in nine of their last 10 matches.  In addition, Yale has made a strong comeback in singles three times after dropping the doubles point, including in its match against St. John's one week ago.  The Elis will look to carry these trends into Ivy League play.  In the match against Princeton, Yale's No. 1 player, Huang, will likely come up against the No. 7 player in the country, Pecotic, in a rematch of their tense encounter in the semifinals of the 2012 United States Tennis Association (USTA)/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Northeast Regional tournament, which Pecotic won 6-7, 6-1, 6-3.  Hoffman, Powers, senior Zachary Dean and freshmen Jason Brown and Martin Svenning are all coming off confidence-boosting wins over their St. John's opponents.  Brown, Dean and Powers all won hard-fought three-set affairs, with Dean recording his seventh victory in his last eight matches.

Princeton (12-4, 1-0 Ivy) has won nine of its last 10 matches, with its only loss coming to Pepperdine, a team ranked No. 11 at the time.  The Tigers have only lost one match after securing the doubles point.  Princeton was victorious in its Ivy opener, defeating Penn 4-3.

In its loss to the favored Princeton squad, Penn (8-6, 0-1 Ivy) showed impressive fight, particularly in singles play.  Also, though the Quakers have only won two of their last seven matches, they did achieve a six-match undefeated streak earlier this season.

In last year's opening Ivy weekend, Yale defeated Penn 5-2 but then narrowly lost to Princeton, 4-3.

Report by Robert Batista '15, Yale Sports Publicity