Men’s tennis downs Middlebury,Tufts

Two NESCAC wins in the span of a week allowed men’s tennis to kick off its conference schedule in style, as Williams defeated Middlebury at home 6-1 and Tufts on the road 4-3. The pair of victories moves the team to 7-1 on the year, with only three weeks of the season elapsed.

Tuesday’s win over Middlebury was played in cold, windy conditions, as the match began out-of-doors at the Chaffee Tennis House under a forbidding sky. Both teams seemed to be playing according to the pace of the day, with many of the players in the doubles matches coming out slowly and hesitantly at first. As a result, Williams quickly fell behind the Panthers in two of the games, and the Ephs looked to be inexplicably conceding the doubles point.

A pair of comebacks, however, kicked the match into high gear: the duo of Milos Janicek ’02 and John Haywood ’04 recovered from facing a game point at 3-7 to top Justin Ingoglia and Stu Brown of Middlebury at 9-7, and the high-powered pair of Dave Frankel ’04 and captain Josh Lefkowitz ’02 managed to climb back to defeat Steve Hulce and Matt Dougherty, 8-6.

The Ephmen hardly fared better in the early going of singles play, with Janicek’s first set settled in a tiebreaker and Lefkowitz resorting to a leisurely baseline game before topping the Middlebury number one Ingoglia at 6-4. However, with darkness descending upon Williamstown, both teams were forced to move into the cramped quarters of Lansing Chapman rink and the break in the action may have been just what the team needed.

“The first set really started off sort of flat,” said Lefkowitz, who was competing against Ingoglia for the first time since their meeting in the fall Regional final, a match that the Williams ace took 6-0, 6-1. “There were a lot of lobs, and he was making me create the pace, which is not what I do best. But Coach [Dave] Johnson told me to settle down, and that I’d get some errors, and eventually they started coming.”

They did come; Lefkowitz took the second set 6-0, and Janicek 6-3, while number two Frankel maintained his poise indoors to finish his opponent off 6-3, 6-3. With the win clinched, the lower singles matches were able to take the floor, and they were no less impressive. The youngest of the competitors – Tim White ’05 – cruised through his first NESCAC match, making quick work of Alex Meditz at 6-1, 6-2. “It was a real good way to start the year,” said White, whose blistering passing shots in the final set rounded out a solid performance.

Similar dominance was exhibited by Lex Urban ’04, who celebrated his 20th birthday in style, winning 6-2, 6-4. Dan Murray ’04, playing out of the number four spot, had almost the opposite fate of his teammates – after clearly superior play in his first set, he appeared to be discomforted by the move indoors, dropping two consecutive sets and a tough match to Andrew Jacobi, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

All in all, however, Johnson was pleased with the effort displayed by his team: “It’s always tough to move indoors once you’ve already warmed up and gotten in your rhythm, and it doesn’t always work out,” he said. “I thought our guys responded very well to the change, and really took control after that, which I was pleased by.”

Tufts nearly pulled off a shocking upset of Williams on Saturday, as a slow start for the Ephs was met by a quick effort from the Jumbos, who succeeded in taking the doubles point by besting the top pairings of Frankel/Lefkowitz and Haywood/Janicek at 8-6 and 8-5, respectively. After Lefkowitz dropped his first set to David Ruttenberg of Tufts, things did not look good for Williams.

The middle of the Williams singles lineup, however, played an unimpeachably solid match, as Janicek took Jon Bram at 6-3, 6-2, Murray roughed up Danny Lang at 6-2, 6-1, and White overpowered Mark Fitzgerald, 6-3, 6-1.

Lefkowitz’s talent ultimately shone through, as he recovered from early misfortune to take his match with Ruttenberg 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

With Frankel and Urban going down in straight sets, the Ephs may have been fortunate to deal this loss – the first of the year – to a feisty Tufts squad.

Missing from the team this week, and indeed, for the year, will be Andrew Murray ’04, who had reconstructive surgery on a torn ACL over spring break, ruling him out for at least six months. The injury, suffered during an IM basketball game, will rob the Ephs of a top talent, who played at number three singles and partnered with his brother Daniel at number two doubles last season.

Nonetheless, Andrew is optimistic about the prospects of the squad: “Our team is very solid and very deep, and I have complete confidence that the guys out there on the court have the talent to play at the top national level.”