Men's Varsity Tennis Ends Five-Match Losing StreakBy Daniel Wang
Last week, the men's tennis team scored victories on consecutive days, first over Brandeis University on Wednesday, then over Dartmouth College on Thursday, by identical 8-1 scores. The team thereby broke a five-match losing streak, and improved its record for the season to 5-9.
Up until the two matches, the MIT team had been struggling throughout the season. Disappointing losses to Tufts University, 8-1, and Connecticut College, 5-4, preceded a defeat by Williams College, 6-3. Last season, MIT had defeated both Tufts and Connecticut College.
For the Engineers, the match against Brandeis was the first match back home in two weeks. In their previous home match, the Engineers narrowly defeated the United States Coast Guard Academy, 5-4.
This match, however, was never as close. Interestingly, the outcome was a reversal of many of the team's past matches this season. Top gun Jay Muelhoefer '94 was usually the only one to win his singles match, but against Brandeis, he was the only one to lose. Muelhoefer, playing well below his best, fought hard and even had a chance to win, but came up short, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).
Mark Erickson '94, Nick Tsai '94, Jason Weintraub '97, and Dan Wang '97, playing third through sixth singles, respectively, all won their matches in straight sets quite easily despite gusty conditions on the court.
Second singles player Mauricio Lomelin '94 won his first set against Solly Ahdoot, but his opponent battled back to split the first two sets. In the deciding set, Lomelin regrouped to win the match, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, and clinch the team win for MIT. Last October, Ahdoot came close to eliminating Muelhoefer in the first round of the Rolex New England Small College Tennis Championships.
MIT's first and second doubles teams won their matches quite easily. First doubles team Muelhoefer and Tsai continued their undefeated record against Division III opponents in the New England region. In this portion of the competition, however, the day belonged to Wang and Rob Marcato '97, for scoring the Engineer's first victory at third doubles this spring.
The pair started out sloppily, making many errors to drop to first set, 6-2. They then stormed into the second set, winning 16 of the first 18 points to win the set, 6-1, and tying the score.
Throughout most of the third set, things did not look good for Marcato and Wang. Errors helped the Brandeis team build up a 5-2 lead. However, the MIT pair never gave up and slowly came back. A few almost perfectly executed plays helped the two fight off two match points, and win a tough deuce game to tie the score, 5-5.
Then they broke the opponent's serve to break their spirit. As a result, Marcato and Wang were able to finish off a tough match rather easily.
Easy win over Dartmouth
The next day, the Engineers returned to the tennis courts at MIT to take on the Dartmouth College "B" squad. Apparently, three of the Dartmouth players were not able to come, forcing them to come to MIT with only five players.
As a result, MIT instantly gained two points for a forfeit at sixth singles and third doubles. The Engineers then did not need much time to seal the team victory.
On this day, there was not as much wind, but the air was considerably colder. The conditions, however, did not stop Muelhoefer and Tsai from allowing only two games to their opponents, in singles.
Lomelin and Weintraub followed up the results with straight set victories of their own. Erickson was the only MIT player to surrender a set, as he struggled, and bowed, 6-3, 6-2.
Because of the considerable traveling distance and the imminent darkness, the Dartmouth coach requested that abbreviated doubles matches be played. Both MIT teams captured wins by fair margins. Muelhoefer and Tsai continued to display the form that not only made them New England Champions, but also maintained their status as one of the best in the region. Erickson and Weintraub continued to show their strength, as they easily dominated their opponents to gain an 8-2 victory.
Season winding down
The next dual meet for the team will take place tomorrow afternoon as it travels to Amherst College for its final away contest. There, the Engineers hope to avenge a 5-4 loss that they suffered last year. They will play their next and final home match Thursday next week, against UMass-Amherst.
At the beginning of the season, the team had hoped to extend their season by qualifying for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III Championships as a team. Unfortunately, with this season's results, that will not be the case. The Engineers qualified for team competition in 1991 and 1992, but fell short last season.