Men’s tennis looks to repeat Ivy championship
After a successful season last year, the Dartmouth men’s tennis team has once again gotten off to a fast start and has lofty goals for the remainder of the season.
Last season, Dartmouth won the Ivy League, finishing 20-5 and advanced to the NCAA tournament before Oregon ousted them in the first round. It was one of the most successful seasons in recent memory, and with five freshmen on the team last year, the team anticipates an even better finish this year.
So far this season, Dartmouth has started with a 3-2 record and is ranked 31st in the nation, with resounding victories over Indiana University and Bryant University as well as a thrilling win over the University of Kentucky. Recently, they lost to No. 14 Columbia University, a team that will certainly be one of the Big Green’s main competitors for the Ivy League crown.
The Big Green is led by standout juniors Charlie Broom ’20 and David Horneffer ’20, who are top three on the team in singles and play together as the top doubles team. Dan Martin ’21, Peter Conklin ’21 and Casey Ross ’21 are all sophomores looking to build on strong freshmen campaigns, and Sid Chari ’22 and Pierce Widdecombe ’22 are standout freshmen who have contributed immediately.
Head coach Chris Drake points to many of the “core principles” carrying over from last year as something that has led to the team’s early success. Despite not having any seniors this year, the team has run cohesively, and even the freshmen, Drake said, have quickly “gotten on board with everything we’re doing.” He pointed to the unmatched camaraderie that has helped aid the loss of three players from the singles lineup last year.
Drake said that one of the special traits of this team is that there are contributions from every part of the lineup that have led to the early success. Broom, who is rated No. 27 in the nation, plays singles and doubles every match. Drake added that Horneffer, Martin and Conklin are also off to good starts, and despite not playing many singles matches last year, Ross has become a regular contributor in the lineup and an invaluable part of the team.
One of the strengths of the team, Drake said, is a culture that makes practice fun. The players are “coming into their own development and committed to a collective effort,” he said.
Broom said that the team has built on success in the fall and is looking ahead to the Ivy League season, adding that he wants to keep getting better despite the early success.
“I had a good season last year, but I’m always critiquing how I can get better,” Broom said. “I want to look at ways I can improve myself.”
Horneffer said that last year’s experience helped immensely in preparation for this year.
“It’s a bit easier going through last year and knowing what it takes training-wise and confidence-wise in winning matches back-to-back,” he said.
Ross said that he has seen contributions from every part of the team, including the younger players.
“The freshmen have really stepped up and everyone is grinding to do their part,” Ross said.
One of the biggest changes from last year was the addition of assistant coach Alex Steinroeder, who has brought valuable coaching experience to the Big Green. Drake praised Steinroeder, and said that he had actually recruited him to Dartmouth as a player, but Steinroeder ended up choosing to play for Harvard University.
Looking forward, the Big Green is hoping to repeat as Ivy League Champions, cementing a spot in the NCAA tournament. As players on the team have pointed out, a victory at the tournament would be a big achievement given that they lost last year in the first round.
It will be a tough road to repeat as Ivy League champions, but the players believe they have what it takes. Drake said that the Ivy League may have as many as two to four teams make the tournament this year, and that last year, Harvard and Columbia made the tournament as well. The team is looking forward to the upcoming Ivy League slate as well as playing an extremely tough non-conference schedule coming up against the University of Minnesota, the University of Memphis and Drake University.
These are exciting times for the the Big Green, and the players and coaches alike think that this will be a truly special season.