PHILADELPHIA At this time last year, the men’s tennis team was 3-0 in the Ivy League, and taking on Harvard, a team they hadn’t beaten in 32 years. The Quakers lost 5-2, but managed to win a share of the League title with Brown. This year, the stakes were even higher: Penn and Harvard were the only two undefeated teams in the league, battling for first place, and control of the Ivies. And this year, things ended differently, as the Quakers battled back to win, 4-3, and improve to 4-0 in the Ivy League. It is the first time Penn has beaten Harvard in men’s tennis since 1974.
It didn’t look like things would end that way when the match began. Harvard’s doubles teams played well, and took an early lead over the Quakers. First to fall were juniors Jason Pinsky and Eric Riley, who lost to Ashwin Kumar and Sasha Ermakov, 8-6 in the No. 1 spot. Then Justin Fox and Brandon O'Gara lost, 8-6, in the No. 3 spot to Michael Hayes and Dan Nguyen, giving the Crimson the doubles point and the momentum. Jonathan Boym and Mikhail Bekker earned a win at No. 2, beating Scott Denenberg and Gideon Valkin, 8-3, but the damage was done, and Harvard had a 1-0 lead going into the singles match-ups. It didn’t stay that way for long.
Sophomore Joseph Lok earned Penn’s first point of the match, when he beat Denenberg in the No. 4 spot, 7-5, 6-1. Jonathan Boym was next to get a win, putting Penn up, 2-1. He beat Kumar, 6-3, 6-4 in the No. 2 spot. Junior Jason Pinsky earned a hard fought win over Chris Clayton in the No. 1 spot, 6-2, 7-5, to give the Quakers a 3-1 lead. On the next court just one minute later, senior captain Mikhail Bekker clinched the win for Penn, as he beat Nguyen in the No. 3 spot, 7-5, 6-3.
Penn suffered two losses at the bottom of the line-up, as Justin Fox lost to Valkin, 7-6(4), 6-2 in the No. 5 spot, and Eric Riley lost to Sasha Ermakov, 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-4 in the No. 6 spot.
Coach Mark Riley was happy with the way his team played, and the team’s first victory over Harvard in 33 year.
“This match was for sole possession of first place in the league,” Coach Riley said. “We really control the league right now; everyone else has one loss. During the match, I was thinking about how a year ago, we were 3-0 in the league, and lost to Harvard. I was also thinking, this is the first win over Harvard since 1974, so for all those guys who played at Penn and were never able to beat Harvard, this is for them. Now we have to move forward, and beat Dartmouth tomorrow.”
With the win, Penn improved to 10-11 overall, and 4-0 in the Ivy League. Up next, the Quakers will host Dartmouth tomorrow at 2 p.m. The match will be played on the Lott Courts if weather permits and at Levy Tennis Pavilion in case of rain.
Penn 4, Harvard 3
1) Ashwin Kumar/Sasha Ermakov (H) def. Jason Pinsky/Eric Riley (P), 8-6
2) Jonathan Boym/Mikhail Bekker (P) def. Scott Denenberg/Gideon Valkin (H), 8-3
3) Michael Hayes/Dan Nguyen (H) def. Justin Fox/Brandon O'Gara (P), 8-6
1) Jason Pinsky (P) def. Chris Clayton (H), 6-2, 7-5
2) Jonathan Boym (P) def. Ashwin Kumar (H), 6-3, 6-4
3) Mikhail Bekker (P) def. Dan Nguyen (H), 7-5, 6-3
4) Joseph Lok (P) def. Scott Denenberg (H), 7-5, 6-1
5) Gideon Valkin (H) def. Justin Fox (P), 7-6(4), 6-2
6) Sasha Ermakov (H) def. Eric Riley (P), 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-4
Order of finish: D1, D3, D2, S4, S2, S3, S4*, S5, S6