Harvard Gets Redemption in Form of 2023 Tennis On Campus Championship
NORTHAMPTON, MA – Harvard University Club Tennis outlasted 27 other schools, including three-time defending champions, Brown University, to capture the 2023 Tennis On Campus (TOC) New England Championship on Sunday at Smith College. For the Crimson, it was their first New England title since 2017 and 5th overall.
Harvard’s road to the finals was anything but easy. After defeating Quinnipiac University and the University New Hampshire in pool play, Harvard was matched up against perennial contender and 2018 champions, Dartmouth College, in the quarterfinals of the Gold Bracket.
Harvard trailed Dartmouth 19-14 after four matches with only mixed doubles to play. With the team’s tournament hopes on the shoulders of Co-captain Cosette Wu and Kevin Zhang, the mixed duo came up clutch, winning their position, 6-1, and forcing and a super tiebreaker to decide the match. Wu and Zhang kept the momentum going and closed out the breaker to clinch the match and a spot in the semifinals.
In the semis, the Crimson outlasted a game MIT squad, 27-15, to set up a rematch of the 2022 final with Brown, a match the Bears took, 23-17.
Harvard grabbed the early lead this year courtesy of a 6-5 Zhang/Kareem Ansari (Co-captain) men’s doubles win. Wu and Claire Gu then extended the lead to four games with a dominant 6-3 victory in women’s dubs. Brown had no plans to relinquish its title that easily however, as it stormed back to win the next two positions in identical fashion.
Ty Cohen earned a 6-5 men’s singles win, and Michelle Shub won on the women’s side, 6-3, knotting the score at 20 games apiece with just mixed remaining.
Once again, Harvard’s fate came down to Wu and Zhang. The battle-tested pair this time came out of the gate ready, going up 3-0. The Bears, in desperation mode, made two substitutions in over the next two games, but Harvard proved too strong, winning the set 6-1, finished off by a Zhang jumping overhead smash.
“Kevin and I have been through a lot of close matches together. He really carries us and keeps the energy up for sure, and he’s just ‘Flying Kev,’” Wu said.
“We had a great group of people at the tournament, and we’re always trying to have fun. That’s the most important part about Tennis On Campus,” Zhang said. “Overall, it helps with the nerves. We had a couple tight matches there towards the end, but Cosette and I are just able to laugh about it and make fun of each other a little bit, and it really helps keep us going.”
New England will send seven teams to the National Championships in Rome, GA in April. Third through sixth-place finishers, Yale University, MIT, Dartmouth and UConn will join Harvard and Brown at the event. The seventh team will advance via “Club of the Year,” to be voted on by New England teams and selected in December by USTA New England’s TOC Committee.
Second-place finishers in Saturday’s flight play advanced to the Silver Bracket, while third place went to Bronze, and fourth, Copper, guaranteeing all clubs two days of action.
UMass Amherst captured the Silver Bracket title, Fairfield University took home Bronze, and the University of Maine earned the Bronze crown. Matches were played on the campuses of both Smith and Hampshire Colleges.
The University of Rhode Island closed out the weekend by winning the Sportsmanship Award, voted on by all 28 teams at the event.
This year’s event also featured three new teams: Babson College, Colby College and Williams College. If you’re interested in learning more about Tennis On Campus or starting a club at your college, please visit www.tennisoncampus.com.
Event recaps and highlights can be found below: