Men’s tennis rolls through Trinity, Vassar

There is a character in the Marvel Comics universe called “The Juggernaut” – he’s a burly fellow, strong and stout, with magical powers conferred upon him by the mythical Gem of Cyttorak. More importantly, once he begins moving in a certain direction, no force on the planet can compel him to stop.

Right now, men’s tennis is doing a rather convincing impression.

Another full weekend of action saw the Williams team demolish Trinity (9-3 overall; 3-2 NESCAC) 7-0 Saturday afternoon in Hartford, and convincingly defeat Vassar College (3-8 overall) 6-1 on Sunday in a home match. Additionally, both matches were played without a number of normal starters, as Dave Johnson, head coach of men’s tennis, took the opportunity to rest a group of his top players.

With the wins, Williams (11-1 overall; 4-0 NESCAC) will likely maintain its top ranking in the national polls, while Trinity may drop out of the top 25.

Saturday’s trip to the “Insurance Capitol of the World” was made far more bearable by the play of Tim White ’05, whose emergence as a force in the starting lineup has been a bright spot for the Ephs thus far this season.

Falling victim to the irrepressible first-year at number four singles was previously-undefeated Muammar Khan, who failed to take a single game as White rolled, 6-0, 6-0.

“To beat a Trinity player who hadn’t lost all year and to do it without giving up a game is very impressive,” said Johnson, whose squad won every set despite a non-traditional match format. Indeed, no Williams player or team conceded more than three games in any set, a remarkable achievement that highlights the depth of this year’s team.

The non-traditional format – singles matches were played first, with doubles following – was adopted due to a number of factors, including the threat of inclement weather, and the need for the competition to be finished that afternoon. “[Trinity] really doesn’t have any indoor or backup facilities,” said Johnson, “and we thought it would be smarter to make sure of a result, and then play doubles.”

Returning All-American Josh Lefkowitz ’02 made no mistake at number one singles, topping Richard Lawrence, 6-2, 6-3, while David Frankel ’04 and Milos Janicek ’02 put together a pair of pleasing 6-2, 6-0 wins at number two and number singles, respectively, to clinch the win for the Ephs.

Lex Urban ’04 and Kurt Palmer ’02 came up with solid victories in the bottom two slots as the Ephs kept their unbeaten streak in the NESCAC alive.

“It’s easy to get distracted by [the match format] since we aren’t used to going right into the singles,” said Lefkowitz, who also teamed with Frankel to record an 8-2 win at number one doubles. “But everyone adapted well and did a great job of staying focused.”

“It was obvious that Trinity was ready to play,” White readily agreed, “but we just came out really intense and dominated each match from the beginning. We made a good team look not as good as they actually are.”

Sunday was a day of rest for much of the starting lineup, as Lefkowitz and Urban joined the injured Daniel Murray ’04 and Toby Reigeluth ’04 on the bench. Frankel kept his top doubles’ slot, where he teamed with John Haywood ’04 to nab an 8-3 win over Jake Maslikowski and Eric Weinstein of Vassar, but was able to take a break for singles’ action.

Playing at number two doubles was the unlikely pairing of Jeff Byrnes ’03 and Sumant Bhat ’03, neither of whom had seen any action previously this season. Bhat, in particular, was a very surprising selection, as the 6’7” junior is perhaps best known for being a fan-favorite on the basketball team. None of that seemed to stop the duo, which cruised to an 8-1 victory over Ben Leffler and Aaron Brookner.

Singles play saw five victories for the green Ephs, as Byrnes, Miles Hawley ’02, and Robert Hahn ’05 all stepped into the starting six for the first time this season. Only Byrnes would falter, losing a tight match to Brookner at 2-6, 7-6 (5) (10-6).

The rest of the roster excelled on a crisp afternoon – Hawley, Hahn, and White dropped a total of six games, while Haywood pulled out a nice victory at #3 over David Rhodes, 6-0, 4-6, (10-4).

“Vassar was a good match to get under our belt,” said Frankel. “They compete well, and any team that competes has a shot.”

Of a like mind was Daniel Murray ’04, who sat out the weekend’s action due to back and shoulder injuries: “We were able to get a lot of guys in the lineup and everyone played some good tennis. It was fun to watch.”

The Ephs have an away match today at 3:30, taking on Wesleyan in the final tune-up before this weekend’s NESCAC Championships, which will be held in Amherst, Mass.

Unfortunately for their opponents, Williams appears to be heating up at just the right time, which will make the Ephs awfully hard to shut down.

“It really feels like we’re starting to hit our stride,” says Lefkowitz, “and everyone is getting anxious to see what we can accomplish.”