Men’s tennis rolling with three wins

Men’s tennis (10-3) is having another fantastic year. Coming off a second-straight national championship, Williams is aiming to three-peat as national champs and to defend its NESCAC crown for the 11th consecutive season.

With this week’s victories against Skidmore, MIT and Trinity, the team is peaking at just the right time to achieve these lofty goals heading into next week’s NESCAC Championships.

The team began its play this week at home against a strong Skidmore (12-3) squad on Tuesday. The Ephs had no trouble taming the Thoroughbreds, as Williams swept the doubles matches and lost only one match in singles.

On the doubles side, top seeds Andrew Murray ’04 and Jeff Kivitz ’06 triumphed 9-7, while the second and third seeded teams, John Haywood ’04 and Lex Urban ’04 and Daniel Murray ’04 and Bryan Monier ’06 each won their matches 8-2.

On the singles side, top seed Haywood narrowly lost 6-3, 6-4 to Russell Cloder, one of the better players the Ephs will face this season. None of the other Ephs lost a set. Two seed Andrew Murray won 6-3, 6-1, number three Tim White ’05 won 6-3, 6-4, number four Toby Reigeluth ’04 won 6-4, 6-0, Urban swept his fellow number five 6-0, 6-0, and finally, Scott Mackenzie ’06 swept his first set 6-0 and closed out the match with a 6-4 second set.

The victory against Skidmore showed the Ephs’ depth from top to bottom, an advantage which Williams used to insert some variety into its top six seeds.

“We’re an incredibly deep team with great talent well beyond the seven guys who normally play in the lineup,” said tri-captain Andrew Murray. “Today was a good chance for us to use some of that depth and for a lot of players to contribute to the match’s outcome.”

The victory against the strong Skidmore squad prepared Williams for Friday’s match against MIT in Cambridge. The Ephs split the singles matches 3-3 and then showed their heart by winning two of the three doubles matches for a 4-3 victory.

The bottom half of the order carried Williams in the singles matches, as numbers four, five, and six all swept their matches handily. Number four seed Daniel Murray defeated MIT’s Orgydziak 6-3,6-1, White pulled out a close first set 7-5 before rolling in the second 6-2 against Pokala at the fifth seed, and Reigeluth defeated Makhn in a consistent 6-3, 6-3 at the sixth seed.

Sadly, the top of the Eph line-up did not enjoy such success, as all three of the top seeds narrowly lost their hard-fought matches.

The trend repeated itself in doubles, where top seeded Andrew Murray and Kivitz lost a heartbreaker to Vitaly Pereverev 8-4. However, the Ephs were not to going to allow MIT to spoil this sunny afternoon, and both the second and third seeded teams of Urban and Haywood and Daniel Murray and Mackenzie triumphed in their matches, 8-5 and 8-2, respectively.

The close contest tested the Ephs mightily, but it also showed that men’s tennis has the grit to win a tight match on an opponent’s home-court.

“The key to this match was definitely the doubles point,” tri-captain Urban said. “We knew MIT was very strong up top and we needed to step up in doubles. Daniel [Murray] and Scott [Mackenzie] really crushed their guys, which provided a huge lift on the other two courts. This was a big win for the team heading into the home stretch of the season.”

Finally, men’s tennis concluded its play this weekend with a match against a strong Trinity Squad, which entered the match 9-3 and nationally ranked. However, the most important number of the day, the 5-2 final score, belonged to the Ephs, as they defeated the Bantams in their Hartford, Connecticut confines.

The Ephs were again strongest near the bottom of their order and in doubles. The top two singles seeds both dropped their matches, but numbers three through six, Kivitz, Daniel Murray, White, and Reigeluth, respectively, all triumphed, and Williams swept the doubles.

“We were a little tired from our match the day before,” Kivitz said. “We came out a little slow in doubles, but we played well in singles. They had some solid players at numbers one and two, but we were better from three to six.”

Following this week’s matches, the team plays at Vassar on Tuesday and then faces Little Three and NESCAC foe Wesleyan at home on Thursday afternoon.

The Wesleyan match is the team’s final tune-up before it heads to Middlebury for the NESCAC Championship this coming weekend. Despite a slower than usual start, including a loss to Middlebury, the team is hitting its high-point now and is poised to defend its NESCAC and national championships.

“We had the early loss to Middlebury,” Andrew Murray said, “but we have bounced back well and we figure to be right in the hunt for the national title.”