After an impressive 2018-2019 campaign, the men’s varsity tennis team entered its fall season facing serious personnel question marks after graduating key seniors. Even so, the team has recorded promising results in each of its first two fall tournaments. As the team travels to the Wesleyan Invitational this weekend, the final contest this fall, it will be looking to replicate that early success.
Last year’s captains Grant Urken ’19 and Jerry Jiang ’19 finished the season by defeating the University of Chicago and NESCAC rival Wesleyan University in order to win the NCAA doubles championship, offering invaluable contributions both on the court and off. Urken and Jiang leave behind a legacy of leadership and success.
In addition to last year’s captains, the team also saw Luke Carstens ’19 and Aidan McGrory ’19 graduate, leaving it with only seven returning players this fall.
“It’s always really hard to come back from that when we lose four vital … people on the team,” said captain Oscar Yang ’22.
Despite the loss of last year’s core players, the 2019-2020 squad has wasted no time in getting back on track. In its fall season opener—the Intercollegiate Tennis Association New England Regional hosted by Colby—the team quickly turned heads.
Yang mustered an especially impressive day, posting a 6-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Wesleyan’s Princeton Carter before defeating Williams’ Calvin Chung to earn a quarterfinal bid.
Fellow captain Justin Patel ’20 was especially struck by the team’s performance in the singles bracket. All five Polar Bears won their first singles match, which Patel referred to as “huge” and something that “we don’t really get … in my four years here.”
The team carried similar energy into the following weekend’s Wallach Invitational, held at Bates. Yang and Tristan Bradley ’23 teamed up to win the A doubles bracket and Justin Wang ’22 took the B bracket singles title.
“It’s really exciting to see us doing well in the fall,” said Yang. “We have one more tournament, so I’m going to make these two weeks count.”
“The goal for that is really just like work extremely hard [these] next two weeks and try to have as many people in on the final day as possible,” Patel added.
Looking ahead to what promises to be a pivotal season for men’s tennis, the development of first year contributors will be particularly crucial in determining team success. Michael Vergara ’23, Jack Carroll ’23 and Bradley will all fill specialized roles on the team, according to Patel.
“From a result standpoint, [Bradley] has done well. But the other two freshmen have also won big matches … We’re expecting a lot out of them,” said Patel.
The expectations for this year’s crop of first years stem from the team’s emphasis on improvement that comes from every level of the team.
“Something we pride ourselves on is we get bottom-up and top-down pressure,” said Patel. “You have the starting guys always pushing the guys who aren’t starting to get better, but then the guys who may not be starting [are] always pushing … the starters to improve and get better.”
The team will finish out its fall season at the Wesleyan Invitational this weekend.