The two-time defending Ivy champion men’s tennis team will begin its title defense on the road against Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend. Last spring, the Lions went 6-1 in Ivy play, but the team has struggled this spring in non-conference play and will be looking to end a six-match losing streak.
Columbia has had a difficult season overall, but its struggles were magnified in a 2-5 loss this past Saturday to St. John’s. Doubles, which was supposed to be a key to the Lions success this season, was swept by the Red Storm. The singles was no better for Columbia, as only one player won his first set—freshman Tizian Bucher. The Lions’ only wins came from Bucher and sophomore Nate Gery, at No. 5 and 4 singles respectively.
First up for Columbia is Dartmouth, which was ranked No. 74 last week but fell out of national rankings this week. This is the strongest team that Dartmouth has fielded in recent years, illustrated by its 9-4 record this season. In its most recent match, Dartmouth beat Utah 5-2 in California, winning the doubles point and taking four of the six singles matches. Playing No. 1 singles this fall is Michael Laser, who played No. 2 singles last spring and is 1-3 in his last four matches. The match will almost certainly be played indoors, which should be an advantage for Columbia since the team traditionally struggles outdoors, as evidenced by the 0-4 record outdoors in Texas earlier this spring. When Columbia hosted Dartmouth last spring, Columbia easily won 6-1, winning four matches in straight sets.
The next opponent for the weekend is the Lions’ traditional Ivy rival Harvard, which comes into the weekend ranked No. 70 in the nation. The Crimson tied for second place in the Ivies last year but boasts arguably the most raw talent of any team in the Ancient Eight. Harvard has won four straight going into the start of Ivy play and six of its past eight. Doubles has been a mainstay for the Crimson all spring, as it has won seven of the past eight doubles points. Harvard’s lineup is vastly different than it was the last time these two teams met. Playing No. 1 singles this year is junior Jonathan Pearlman, ranked No. 107 nationally, who didn’t play last year after transferring from Brown. Pearlman had the biggest singles win of the year in the Ivy League when he routed No. 12 Austen Childs from Louisville, Ky., i-n straight sets 6-3, 6-2. Pearlman has been the only constant in the lineup this season. The match against Dartmouth is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Hanover, N.H. and the match against Harvard will start at 2 p.m. in Cambridge, Mass.