Season Recap: Young Guns Propel Men's Tennis' Surge to the Finish

Season Recap: Young Guns Propel Men's Tennis' Surge to the Finish

Photo courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications.

Harvard concluded the season with a 14-10 overall record and compiled a 5-2 mark in the Ivy League having won its final five matches of the season. The 2009-10 campaign featured many of the underclassmen prevailing on the court.  The team was lead by junior Alexei Chijoff-Evans, playing at the No. 1 singles position. Chijoff-Evans racked up a team-high 19 singles victories over the course of the season. Sophomore Alistair Felton was close behind with 17 wins in singles action this year.

The unsung heroes of the season were the freshmen of the team. Three freshmen elevated their games and took on the challenges of playing in the starting six. Andy Nguyen, Christo Schultz and Joshua Tchan all played integral roles in the squad’s success. The Crimson’s five rookies combined to post a 53-43 singles record and a 72-42 mark in doubles action in their first season of collegiate tennis. "We saw glimpses of the future in their potential this season," commented Dave Fish ’72, The Scott Mead '77 Head Coach for Harvard Men's Tennis. Fish also added that "the team is a river that is rising, their full potential has yet to be reached. With more improvement and the hardwork that is in store for the summer months, this team should be playing its best tennis very soon."

Harvard headed out west to begin the fall season, competing in the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic, Sept. 18-20. The Crimson picked up nine wins at the round-robin tournament. The following weekend, Harvard traveled to Flushing, N.Y., to play in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Invitational. The event was held at the same venue as the famous U.S. Open tennis tournament.

The Crimson competed on home soil for the first time in the season as the team hosted the Harvard Fall Classic. Joining the Crimson was Alabama, Minnesota and Notre Dame. Harvard accrued 17 victories during the three-day event. Nguyen was recognized as the “Corey Winn Freshman Player to Watch”, as he posted a 3-0 record in singles play.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northeast Regional tournament showcased Harvard’s talent as the team claimed 17 wins. Felton and Nguyen teamed up to win six consecutive doubles matches to capture the ITA Northeast Regional doubles title. By winning the crown, the tandem earned a spot in the doubles field at the ITA Indoor Championships, Nov. 5-8.

With a successful fall in its wake, the Crimson set out in search of the program’s 28th Ivy League crown. The Virginia Tech Invitational marked the beginning of the spring season. Tchan turned in the best performance for Harvard, posting two singles wins and two doubles wins. Overall, the Crimson prevailed in 16 matches at the event.

In the first team-related event, the Crimson hosted the Harvard Kick Off Tournament. The squad narrowly lost to Brigham Young and Mississippi State before picking up its first dual victory of the year, a 4-1 win over DePaul.

Harvard carried the momentum into the ECAC Championship, held in New Haven, Conn. At the tournament, the Crimson rolled past Brown, Princeton and Columbia en route to its second-straight ECAC title. After dropping a pair of road matches to Purdue and Indiana, Harvard rallied to defeat Boston College, Radford and St. John’s.

The team participated in the prestigious Blue-Gray Championship in Montgomery, Ala., March 18-20. The Crimson was matched up against Texas Tech, the top-seeded team in the field, in the opening round. Harvard fell, 4-0, but rebounded to blank Penn State, 4-0. The Crimson closed out the event with a 4-3 loss to Boise State.

With Ivy League play just on the horizon, Harvard hosted three non-conference matches at the Murr Center Tennis Courts. Duke handed the Crimson a 4-0 loss and Binghamton downed Harvard 4-3. The team picked up a 6-1 win over Quinnipiac between those two matches to head into conference play with a 9-8 record.

In the opening weekend of Ancient Eight action, Harvard traveled to New York to face Columbia and Cornell. The Lions and Big Red both topped the Crimson by the score of 5-2. Harvard returned home to even out its record at 2-2 with wins over Princeton and Penn. A road win over Brown put the Crimson in prime position to make a strong run to the finish. Harvard played host to archrival Yale in a pivotal weekend match. The Crimson earned a hard-fought victory over the Bulldogs. The squad closed out the regular season at home against Dartmouth. Harvard cruised past the Big Green, winning in convincing fashion, 6-1.

Chijoff-Evans was tabbed to the All-Ivy League first team for singles for the second-consecutive season.  Harvard also had two doubles teams garner All-Ivy League honors. Aba Omodele-Lucien and Schultz, the Crimson’s No. 1 tandem, earned a spot on the All-Ivy League first team. Harvard’s No. 2 pair, Felton and Nguyen, was honored on the All-Ivy League second team.

Senior captain Michael Hayes is the only member of the team departing the program. Hayes posted a 10-7 record in singles action and went 8-6 in doubles play. The Sydney, Australia native picked up three wins in the dual portion of the schedule. In his four years with the Crimson, Hayes has compiled 54 doubles victories to go along with 33 singles wins.