Freshman John Thornton stayed unbeaten in dual match doubles play this spring with a win Sunday (photo courtesy Gil Talbot).
The No. 70 Harvard men's tennis team (11-7, 0-0 Ivy League) begins its pursuit of a 28th Ivy League title and first since 2008 when it opens Ancient Eight play by hosting Cornell and Columbia Friday and Saturday, respectively. Columbia is the two-time defending Ivy League champion entering the spring.
Harvard holds a commanding lead in the all-time series over Cornell, 56-9. The two teams met earlier this season in the semifinals of the ECAC Indoor Championship Feb. 20, with the Big Red taking a 5-2 decision at the Murr Center Tennis Courts, giving it a short two-match win streak in the series.
Columbia and Harvard have met 77 times, with the Crimson dominating the all-time series, 63-14. The Lions have had the last laugh in the past two seasons, topping the Crimson for the Ivy League title while Harvard finished second in both years. Last season, Harvard defeated Columbia, 5-2, to win the ECAC Indoor Championship, while the Lions turned the tables in Ivy League play with a 5-2 victory.
Harvard has won four straight matches and five of six heading into Ancient Eight competition. Doubles has been the Crimson's strength, winning the point in five of its last six matches. Harvard is 15 doubles matches above .500 as a team in dual competition, and 28 matches above .500 for the year. The pair of Alistair Felton and Andy Nguyen leads the team with 18 victories. The team of Aba Omodele-Lucien and Joshua Tchan is right behind with 11 wins.
No. 49 Cornell (17-4, 0-0 Ivy League) has run over its competition this season, and three of its four losses have come against top-50 teams, including No. 1 Virginia. The Big Red claimed the ECAC Indoor Championship Feb. 21 at the Murr Center Tennis Courts with a 4-3 victory over Binghamton. Cornell has won 11 of its last 12 matches dating back to the beginning of the ECAC Indoor Championship Feb. 19.
The Lions (6-10, 0-0 Ivy League) enter the weekend having lost six in a row. They will face Dartmouth Friday in Hanover, N.H., for both teams' Ivy opener. Before the losing streak, the Lions strung together three straight home wins over Binghamton, Army and Stony Brook, Feb. 25-March 4.
Last Time Out
With victories over visiting Illinois State and Fairfield Sunday, the Harvard men's tennis team ensured it will carry a ton of momentum into its Ivy League opener. In the first match against Illinois State, the Crimson suffered a rare sweep in the doubles, losing the point for the first time in five matches. Harvard's singles play picked it up, however, winning five of six matches for the 5-2 victory. Against Fairfield, the doubles crew saw a completely opposite result, sweeping all three matches to clinch the point and give the Crimson an early 1-0 lead. That would prove vital, as Harvard split the singles matches with the Stags, getting wins from Joshua Tchan, Alexei Chijoff-Evans and Tunc Kiymaz to take the dual, 4-3.
The Ivy League season continues April 9-10 when the Crimson heads out on the road for the first time since its spring break trip to California to take on Penn and Princeton.