Dartmouth, Newcomers, Headline
TOC New England Championships
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | October 23, 2018
CAMBRIDGE, MA- There is a new top dog in the New England Tennis On Campus (TOC) world, and that honor goes to Dartmouth College. Dartmouth battled the wind and frigid temperatures and rolled through the Gold Bracket of TOC New England Championships from October 20-21 at Harvard University to capture the school’s first title since 2014.
Harvard won the tournament the past two years but was upended by Yale University in the semifinals this year.
With the win, Dartmouth received an automatic bid to TOC Nationals in Arizona in April where they will be joined by Yale, Brown University, Harvard, first-timers MIT and Wesleyan University and the winner of the New England TOC Club of the Year to be announced in January. Twenty-nine New England clubs competed in flight play and were then placed into Gold, Silver, Bronze and Copper Brackets. ADVERTISEMENT Bronze Bracket matches and some pool play took place at Babson College.
“It feels great to win and it was truly a team effort. Conditions were brutal and cold, but together we tried to stay as a unit and be loud and we fought through,” said Dartmouth Captain James Schenck.
Dartmouth defeated Middlebury College and Bryant University on Saturday to earn a spot in the Gold bracket, where they matched up in the quarterfinals against Tufts University. Dartmouth took down a passionate Tufts crew, 22-16 and then cruised passed Brown, 25-16, to reach the final.
Waiting for the Big Green in the final was a hot Yale squad that denied Harvard the opportunity to play for a three-peat. The meeting turned out to be a rematch of last year’s third-place match, where Dartmouth came away 23-22 after trailing 14-11.
On Sunday, Dartmouth found itself in a similar situation down 13-11 with men’s singles and mixed to play. Eddie Grabill gave Dartmouth the lead thanks to a 6-3 win against Jackson Leipzig and then Grabill had the chance to clinch the title with partner Phoebe Kong. The duo got down 5-3 and were in jeopardy of giving away the championship, but they battled back to take the position, 6-5, and the match.
“Down 5-3 in the mixed set, I thought it was going to get away from us, but our one word this whole tournament has been ‘grit’ and it really stuck with us in the end,” Schenck said.
Despite the loss, Yale will be one of the record seven New England teams off to Nationals. The top five finishers in the Gold Bracket received bids, and for the first time this year, the winner of the Silver Bracket will be heading to Arizona.
“It was exciting to give out our first Nationals bid this year to the Silver Bracket winner. This incentive gave eight more schools the opportunity to compete for the ultimate prize and added an entirely new element of competition,” said Sarah Rice, USTA New England Manager of Community Development and tournament director.
Brown defeated Harvard in the third-place match, while MIT took on Tufts University for the final Gold Bracket spot. For Tufts, it was the third straight year in the fifth-place match (won in 2016, lost in 2017), while MIT was seeking its first ever Nationals appearance.
MIT trailed Tufts 23-20 with just mixed doubles to be played. Tennis On Campus uses the World TeamTennis format, which gives the mixed doubles team trailing the opportunity to make up games in an “overtime” if the duo wins the set. As many games as necessary can be made up as long as the team behind does not lose a game.
With the rule in effect, MIT knew it had no margin for error and did not want to pass up the shot of a lifetime. The Engineers won three consecutive games to tie the score at 23-23, forcing a seven-point supertiebreak to decide the match. MIT kept the momentum going, winning the supertiebreak, 7-1 and advancing to Nationals.
“I’m very proud of this team and it’s exciting to be going to Nationals for the first time. As much as we wanted it, it’s beyond words describing how exciting it is to be going,” said Senior Captain Illina Yang. “We just started this program five years ago, so it says a lot about the commitment and dedication of our players. When I started as a freshman, our team was not even 10 people and we’ve since more than doubled in size and have come this far. You can’t leave any legacy better than making it to Nationals for the first time, and I think our team is super excited for the opportunity to travel somewhere outside of New England.”
A similar storyline highlighted the Silver Bracket championship, as Wesleyan battled Williams College for the final Nationals spot. Both DIII schools have had storied tennis histories, but for Tennis On Campus, both clubs were seeking to make history.
Wesleyan’s TOC program, like MIT’s, has been in existence for just five years. Trailing 18-14 going into mixed, the hope of reaching the club’s first Nationals appearance was slipping away, but Junior Captain Caroline Bhupathi and Dhruv Yadav weren’t going to let that happen.
Wesleyan got down 4-2 in the match, but rallied back to win the next four games and take the set, 6-4. They then won two straight overtime games to force a supertiebreak, where they came away victorious, 7-4.
“I can’t believe we’re going to Nationals, especially as a DIII school. It’s crazy. We couldn’t have done it without our team. They were cheering us on and were telling us there’s nothing to lose, only to gain. We knew it would be hard, but we felt good,” Bhupathi said.
“It’s very special for us considering our team didn’t exist five years ago,” Senior Captain Eddie McCann said. “We’re really excited to have a great opportunity to continue to work hard and compete with the highest level in the country. It should be a springboard for our team going forward and sets the bar for future years.”
Wesleyan defeated the University of New Hampshire and the University of Rhode Island to earn a spot in the finals, a task McCann said didn’t come easy.
“We knew we had to take it one step at a time, had to be patient and focus on every match we were in. There was such a fine margin for error, so we really had to focus and concentrate. Credit to Dhruv and Caroline for staying focused at the end and getting the job done for us.”
In the Bronze Bracket, Central Connecticut State University defeated Bowdoin College by a single game, and in the Copper, WPI defeated Providence College, 26-9.
Providence College earned the team sportsmanship award, while Brandeis University Captain Sarah Fielman won the captain’s sportsmanship award. Both awards were voted on by opposing teams.
“As with every year, the players are what make this tournament great. Even with tough windy and cold conditions on Sunday, they had so much energy and enthusiasm,” Rice said. “These teams put everything they had into it, and seeing so many matches come down to overtime and supertiebreaks, truly showed what this tournament and TOC is all about- team spirit, sportsmanship and top competition.”
TOC Nationals will take place from April 11-13 at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex in Surprise, AZ.
For more information on Tennis On Campus, visit the website.