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Men's Tennis Finishes Second at CAC

By Dan Wang
Team Member

On Saturday, the men's tennis team continued an intense rivalry with the team from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at the Constitution Athletic Conference tournament, held at the Academy.

Two years ago, with a home-court advantage, USCGA defeated MIT in the finals of the same tournament. The following year, in a dual match at MIT, the ultimate team outcome came down to a third-set tiebreaker of the very last match played, and the Engineers came out on top. USCGA later won the CAC tournament, but in the absence of MIT, whose players were mistakenly informed of the event's cancellation due to rain.

A few weeks ago, USCGA defeated MIT in a dual meet, 61. On Saturday, the Engineers met Coast Guard in the finals of the CAC tournament, and hoped to even the score. Despite the verdict being decided by a final tiebreaker, they came up short, and took second place by a 32 decision.

In the tournament, team matches were played in a format different from the normal dual meets. The format of regular dual meets consists of playing three doubles matches, followed by six singles matches, and players may participate in both portions. For this event, there are two singles and two doubles matches, with no one playing both in a single dual match. In the case of a tie, the singles players would pair up, and play an abbreviated doubles match of one set to eight games.

MIT reached the finals of the seven-team draw through two fairly easy wins. The first was a 40 against Norwich University; MIT gained an automatic point when Norwich did not have enough players for a complete team, and then won the other three matches in straight sets.

In the second round, the team faced Clark University, which it had defeated 80 in the fall. This time around, MIT came away with a 31 win. First singles player Jason Weintraub '97 lost in straight sets, but his teammates responded with quick wins.

The doubles pairs of Hank Lin '97 and Chris Bae '98, and Rob Marcato '97 and Surya Ganguli '97 did not have much trouble with their opponents. Second singles player Dan Wang '97 clinched the team victory with a 62, 62 win over an opponent that he split sets with in their previous meeting (where the match was stopped due to darkness).

After completing a match held at nearby Connecticut College, the MIT team returned to the Coast Guard Academy to find the top-seeded host team on the verge of elimination at the hands of Babson College.

Babson gained a 21 edge in the team score, and its second singles player had three match points against his Coast Guard counterpart John Garr. However the Babson player could not capitalize on his opportunities, and as a result, Garr came back to win the tiebreaker. He then cruised through the final set to tie the score, and force a playoff.

Garr played the doubles with his regular doubles partner, first singles player Tony Cella. The duo quickly won the decider, to allow the Cadets to escape to the finals.

Finals decided by doubles match

A determined MIT team presented a tough situation for the Coast Guard in the finals.

Coast Guard gained the first point when Cella defeated Weintraub for the second time of the season, this time in straight sets, 63, 60. However, the Engineers responded when the second doubles team of Marcato and Lin won its match, 63, 62, thus tying the team score.

Things initially looked good for the other doubles pair of Ganguli and John Love '97, as they were ahead in the early part of the first set. Their fortunes changed, though, as their opponents managed to come back to win the first set, then went on to win the second set, and the match, 64, 62.

The second singles match was all that kept the Engineers' hopes alive. At this position, Wang knotted the team score by defeating Garr. Despite being very gritty and determined, Garr was slightly tired by his tough three-set effort in the match against Babson. Wang took advantage of this, and came away with a 46, 61, 63 win. With the result, he avenged a 62, 63 loss to Garr earlier in the season.

The teams were then deadlocked, forcing the final outcome to be decided by a doubles match among the singles players. The impending darkness following the final match forced the action to be moved indoors.

Coast Guard perhaps gained an unfair advantage with the move. Weintraub and Wang were unable to present much of a challenge against the team of Cella and Garr. Poor visibility conditions, and numerous errors on important service returns and volleys, were among the factors behind the adversaries finishing ahead, 83, and USCGA capturing its third consecutive CAC title.

The team will close out its season next week with two more matches. The first is on Wednesday, at home against Amherst College, while the season finale will be at Brandeis University on Friday.