Men’s tennis falls to Middlebury in NESCAC finals

Jose Raventos '16
Co-captain Jose Raventos ’16

Men’s tennis (12-10, 4-4 in the NESCAC) put forth an incredible effort last weekend in the 2015 NESCAC tournament. On Sunday, the men found themselves in the NESCAC finals for the second time in three years after upsetting No. 2 Amherst in the semifinals. Coming off a pair of strong wins over the previous two days, the men were confident going into the finals against Middlebury. However, Middlebury came out firing on all cylinders to take a 3-0 lead after doubles. The Panthers then quickly grabbed a fourth point in singles. The Ephs managed to cut their deficit in half, but Panther junior Palmer Campbell eeked out a narrow 7-4 first-set tiebreaker win that he then followed up with a more straightforward 6-3 second set to seal the title on home soil for the Panthers, 5-2. Despite dropping all three courts in doubles, the Ephs did not roll over easily for the Panthers to stroll to victory. Middlebury captured the fourth point of the morning at No. 4 singles, as Brian Grodecki ’18 lost 6-1, 6-4. Rohan Shastri ’17 ground out a tough first set at No. 2 singles, 7-5, and dealt the fatal blow to his opponent, winning the second set 6-4 and posting the Ephs’ first point of the day.

Sachin Raghavan ’18 followed his teammate’s example a short time later, battling out a back-and-forth affair. He won the first set, 6-3 but dropped the second, 6-1. However, Raghavan made up for his second-set lapse in his third-set performance, turning the tables on his opponent and dispatching him with relative ease, 6-2. The Ephs had cut the deficit in half but still battled on all three remaining courts, as co-captain Jose Raventos ’16 was in a deciding set with his opponent after trading 6-2 and then 6-3 sets. Meanwhile, Howie Weiss ’16 was toughing out a grueling match at No. 6, only just falling short in the first-set tiebreaker 7-2 and still battling deep in a second set. However, the Panthers finished off the Ephs with a win at No. 3, sealing the match. On Saturday, the men defeated archrival Amherst in the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament. Going into Saturday’s match, Amherst had remained undefeated since March. Not only had the Jeffs not lost a match in 10 straight contests, they hadn’t dropped more than two courts in a single one either. Meanwhile, the Ephs had not beaten the Jeffs since the NESCAC Championship match in 2013, two years ago. Williams upended the nationally ranked No. 2 Amherst 5-2. The Eph tandem of co-captain Alexander Schidlovsky ’16 and Brian Astrachan ’16 stormed out to a double-break lead at one-doubles, punishing their Jeff counterparts for a slow start from which they would not recover. Schidlovsky and Astrachan rode their pair of breaks all the way to an 8-4 win. Amherst’s Anton Zykov and Andrew Yaraghi beat Shastri and Raventos at No. 2 doubles, 8-2. In the final doubles match of the day, the duo of Raghavan and Grodecki seized a chance at 2-2 to break their opponents, never relinquishing control thereafter, clinging onto their break all the way to an 8-6 win, lifting the Ephs to a crucial 2-1 lead after doubles. Raghavan led the charge in singles, dismissing his opponent with a pair of 6-1 sets.

The Jeffs responded in kind to the Ephs’ early victory, as they notched a quick singles point of their own as Astrachan fell 6-0, 6-4. Grodecki suffered an early setback in his match, as he was outmatched and overpowered in his first set. But he was not down for the count after a 6-1 trouncing, bouncing back to take the second set 6-3, sending his match into a crucial deciding set. With the pressure on, Grodecki raced out to an early 4-1 lead that propelled him to a 6-4 victory in the final set of the match. Grodecki’s triumph pulled the Ephs to within one point of booking their spot in the NESCAC Championship match against Middlebury. Doing battle at No. 1, Raventos won the first set but dropped the second. Before his match could finish, however, Shastri won his match, earning the Ephs final point of the contest and sealing the victory. On Friday, the men began their winning streak with a convincing 5-0 win over Tufts. Earlier in the season, the Ephs lost to the Jumbos 6-3, but this time took a 3-0 lead heading into singles play with a sweep of the doubles matchups. Raventos and Shastri dispatched their opponents 8-3. In a back and forth battle at No. 3, the Ephs constructed an 8-6 win with the tandem of Raghavan and Grodecki putting the second point on the board with an 8-6 win. At No. 1, Astrachan and Schidlovsky led from start to finish to post an 8-6 victory. First off the court in singles play was Shastri, who delivered a straight-set win, 6-3, 6-2. The win gave the Ephs a 4-0 lead. However, in the five singles matches still to be determined, the Ephs had lost the first set in four of the matches. At No. 1, Raventos won his first set but dropped the second set 6-4. At No. 4, Grodecki won his first set 7-6 and opened up a 3-0 lead in the second set. Grodecki never let up and posted a 6-0 win in the second set to power the Ephs into the semifinals. “Overall, we are a disappointed with the fact that we weren’t able to win the final on Sunday. However, we can take a lot of positives from this weekend. We avenged regular season losses to both Tufts and Amherst, which was huge. From those wins we proved to ourselves that we can compete with the best in the country,” Schidlovsky commented. The Ephs will not graduate any seniors this spring. The team will return to competition next fall.