Coming off two straight statement victories against the likes of Boston College and Georgetown, with a clean sweep across the board in both singles and doubles play resulting in final scores of 7-0 in each competition, No. 24 Men’s Tennis capped off its third match of January with a hard-fought 6-1 loss to No. 6 Virginia. The Crimson dropped five out of six matches in singles play. Senior captain Brian Shi recorded the lone victory in a back-and-forth, three-set match against Virginia’s Bar Botzer, winning 5-7, 7-5, 6-3. Shi was the last member of the team left on the courts after the other five matches wrapped up, and noted that while the team victory was out of reach, he wanted to set a precedent for resilience for the rest of the team to see.
“Something that our team possesses that has helped us become so successful in recent months and years is our resilience,” Shi said. “No matter the circumstance, I’ve always observed my current and past teammates bouncing back and competing hard. I felt like I owed it to my teammates and the tennis program to do the same.”
In doubles play, Shi once again played in the longest-lasting match of the competition. Harvard dropped its first two doubles matches, with sophomore Ronan Jachuck and junior Harris Walker falling by a margin of 6-4, while the pairing of junior Steven Sun and first-year David Lins were bested by a final score of 6-3. Shi and first-year Daniel Milavsky, who rank as the No. 11 doubles team nationally, secured a tight 7-5 victory over Virginia’s Chris Rodesch and William Woodall.
The captain also noted that much of his success with Milavsky has been due to developing great chemistry, both on and off the court.
“Me and Daniel have great off-court chemistry which has definitely helped us on-court. Our doubles games complement each other well and we’ve been working hard to continue improving our net play,” Shi said. “Doubles results can be very up and down but we’re ready for anything that’s thrown our way.”
This was Harvard’s toughest test yet, and while the team didn’t fully accomplish exactly what they sought out to do, Shi noted that there were numerous positive takeaways from the performance. Particularly, the senior mentioned that the team walked into the anticipated matches at less than 100% health-wise, yet still managed to step up to the task in ensuring Virginia would not have an easy path to victory.
“While [Boston College] and Georgetown have great teams, [Virginia] is definitely [on] another level, reflected in their top-10 ranking. With many of the injuries on the team beginning to heal up and a few of our players getting back to playing form, our level is only getting better,” Shi said. “We have many more opportunities against highly-ranked opponents and I know we’ll be able to bring it when it comes time.”
The Crimson men have set lofty goals for this season. Despite Sunday’s result, Shi has confidence that there is enough talent on the team to win future big competitions against other top-ten opponents like the Cavaliers. He believes that with time and improved team chemistry, Harvard can make a national statement in collegiate tennis.
“It does feel a bit different this year. The individuals on the team know the immense talent that we possess and what we are capable of,” Shi explained. “We know we have a tough schedule this year and many opportunities to go up against top-10, top-15 teams. The guys have been doing a great job of managing their health and working hard in training. I have no doubt that we’re going to do some incredible things this season.”
The road ahead won’t be getting much easier for the Crimson as it travels to Los Angeles this Saturday to face No. 8 USC in the ITA Kickoff before returning to Cambridge the following weekend to host No. 16 Michigan. But the senior captain believes that with proper preparation and the right mentality, Harvard can hold its own against anyone.
“As we head off to USC and prepare for Michigan, we’re focused on doing what we do every game – compete hard and bring high energy,” Shi said. “We know what is needed out of each and everyone one of us and we’re ready to step up when it comes our time.”
-Staff writer David Aley can be reached at email@example.com.