Men’s tennis win at northeast regionals, nationals are next

After winning the Northeast Regional Championship this past weekend, men’s tennis is headed to the national tournament in Minneapolis, Minn.

Williams qualified to host the northeastern regional by winning the NESCAC tournament last weekend, and the Ephs’ confidence was riding high after the triumph. Still, Williams knew that it would have to be on its game if it hoped to advance.

“We were confident that we could win,” tri-captain Andrew Murray ’04 said. “But [we] certainly knew that the difference between our teams was very small and that we’d have to compete at our best to win.”

In its first match on Friday afternoon, Williams dispatched Rochester handily 5-1. Rochester’s only point came from its victory at number one singles, where Avinesh Reddy narrowly defeated John Haywood ’04, 6-2, 7-5.

The Ephmen won the doubles point with victories by the second seeded duo of Lex Urban ’04 and Haywood and the third seeded Daniel Murray ’04 and Scott MacKenzie ’06. Urban and Haywood triumphed 8-5, and Murray and MacKenzie won 8-4. The top seeded doubles team of Andrew Murray and Jeff Kivitz ’06 fell to Rochester’s top doubles team 8-5.

The Ephs sealed the victory over Rochester by sweeping the rest of the singles matches. Second seed Andrew Murray won almost without his opponent winning a game, 6-1, 6-0. Kivitz showed similar strength by winning 6-2, 6-1 at the number three seed and Tim White ’05 joined in the dominance with a 6-0, 6-1 thrashing at the fifth seed. Urban showed some mercy but still delivered a sound defeat of Brian Shenker 6-3, 6-3.

The fourth seeded game between Daniel Murray and Josh Bruce-Black was not completed because of inclement weather, which had earlier caused the teams to move the doubles matches indoors to Lansing Chapman Rink. The singles matches were played outside at the Torrence M. Hunt Tournament Courts.

The victory over Rochester set the Ephs on a collision course with NESCAC rival Bowdoin, who earned the right to play Williams by sweeping Tufts in Friday’s first-round match.

Entering the match, the Ephmen knew that they were in for a difficult test, as Bowdoin had reached nationals the year before and was led by a strong group of seniors.

“We were very confident about one thing going into the match with Bowdoin,” tri-captain Urban said. “And that was that they would play as well as they ever have against us. They had three seniors on the team who wanted nothing more than to beat Williams once in their career. The entire team was on a mission.”

“We knew that Bowdoin was a great team, with strong senior leadership looking to get past us so they could get to the national tournament,” Andrew Murray said. “We’d played them the past couple of years and knew that they were going to play their best against us. We felt like we were capable of winning at all the positions but we knew that each spot would be an extremely close match.”

Williams came out strong by winning the doubles point. At number one, Andrew Murray and Kivitz beat August Felker and Macafee Burke, 8-4, but the number three team of Daniel Murray and MacKenzie fell to Thomas Jencks and Patrick Kenealy, 9-7. Second seed Urban and Haywood then secured the point by defeating Colin Joyner and Nick Nadean, 8-4, a duo that had beaten them the week before and had earned All-NESCAC first-team honors for doubles.

“We came out really strong and the crowd was huge in getting behind us,” Urban said of his and Haywood’s victory. “Haywood and I played as well as we have ever played together.”

That win, which featured a long and dramatic point that Urban described as “the best point I have ever been involved in,” was a precursor for what would later unfold in singles action, where Williams had amassed a 3-0 lead with strong victories by Daniel Murray and Urban, 6-3, 6-1, and 6-2, 6-1, respectively.

Unfortunately, the Ephs then dropped numbers one, three and five, as Haywood, Kivitz and White each lost closely contested matches, with Hawyood and Kivitz pushing their opponents to three sets. This meant that the final match between number two seeds Andrew Murray and Macaffee Burke would decide who earned the trip to nationals, and Murray trailed in the third set of that match 4-2.

“He’s put in the most pressure-packed situation you can imagine,” Urban said. “The team’s entire destiny, the team’s entire season rested on his shoulders, and he’s down 4-2 [in the third set] with absolutely all the momentum on Bowdoin’s side.”

In front of the roars of the home-crowd, which included President Morty Schapiro, Andrew Murray swept the final four games of the set for a 6-4 victory and a return to nationals.

“I knew going in that it would most likely be a close three set match that could go either way,” the humble Murray said. “I was just fortunate to pull out the victory when I was needed.”

In addition to its significance for the team’s future, the dramatic win carried extra weight for Andrew Murray and his teammates because it came one year after Murray tore his ACL, an injury for which he had surgery in the off-season and which has plagued him throughout the year.

“Andrew [Murray] had been struggling all year to find his form after tearing his ACL last year,” Urban said. “Everyone wondered when it was just going to click for him. . .[he] showed his true leadership by just fighting and grinding and not allowing himself to be beaten. There was only one word to describe his performance: heart.”

“It has been a bit of a rocky season for me coming off my knee surgery last year,” Murray said, “and this match was the first time that I was really needed to come through. . .I’m just happy that I could do that since all season long the rest of the team has been there for me.”

In addition to Andrew Murray’s personal triumph, there was one other factor that made this dramatic victory so extraordinary.

“The thing that made this match so great was the fact that the three singles victories that brought us the win were turned in by the three captains,” Urban said. “I don’t think there is a better way to have scripted this match.”

Following the regional victory, Williams now proceeds to nationals with its confidence high and playing its best tennis of the year. The team knows it will face the best competition in the nation, but after having beaten top teams in pressure-packed NESCAC and regional tournaments, the team is looking forward to rising to the challenge.

With the confidence and talent that the team has now, the rest of the nation should take notice of the defending national champions, because after a rough season, Williams is riding high and ready for anything.

“Everyone is competing at a very high level,” Urban said. “I can’t wait to get to nationals and show what this team can do.”

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