Tennis

Vanderbilt men’s tennis to start playing SEC after Cambridge split – The Vanderbilt Hustler

George+Harwell+celebrates+after+defeating+Alafia+Ayeni+of+Cornell+in+three+sets+on+Feb.+27%2C+2022.+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29

After a few games last week against Ivy League teams in Cambridge, the Vanderbilt Commodores head home to start the SEC game against Georgia.

George Harwell celebrates after beating Cornell’s Alafia Ayeni in three sets on February 27, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

The Vanderbilt Commodores men’s tennis team returned from a two-game split in Cambridge, Mass., ahead of Friday’s SEC opener against the Georgia Bulldogs. The road trip began Friday, Feb. 25, with the Commodores’ first loss of the spring season to No. 13 Harvard Crimson. Vanderbilt bounced back Sunday by beating the Cornell Big Red despite losing the doubles point. The Commodores are now 7-1 in doubles this season heading into the conference opener this weekend.

Fifth-years George Harwell and Max Freeman opened the Harvard game with a 6-1 doubles win, but the Crimson won the doubles matches on the other two courts to take a 1-0 lead. Harvard won the match early by winning five of six singles matches in straight sets.

This included Junior’s Court 2 defeat Joubert Klopper, whose 7-5, 6-3 loss sealed the Crimson’s double game. Harwell faced No. 20 Henry Von Der Schulenburg on Court 1, but also came up empty. The lone point of the day for the Commodores came from sophomore Jeremie Casabon, whose straight-set victory on the fifth court made the final game 6-1.

“Harvard played better than us, and in some cases considerably,” head coach Ian Duvenhage told The Hustler. “We didn’t play badly, they just played better.”

Vanderbilt returned Sunday to face Cornell on neutral ground. The Commodores were again defeated in doubles, this time losing on the bottom two courts before the Court 1 match was abandoned at 6-6.

“I thought we didn’t all show up for the doubles. When you’re playing a team of this caliber and you have six guys on the court and not everyone is showing up, it’s hard to win the point in doubles,” Duvenhage said.

Vanderbilt played much better in singles matches, winning on four of six courts to win the doubles match 4-3. The Commodores won on all three bottom courts in straight sets, including victories over juniors Siim Troost, Freeman and Casabon.

“Sunday was only the fourth or fifth game that [Casabon’s] played,” Duvenhage said, referring to Casabon’s recent struggle with COVID, a viral infection and a broken foot. “He started very rusty and slow in the first couple, but he’s getting stronger and better. He did a very good job this weekend so hopefully he will get stronger and better.

Senior Marcus Ferreira lost in straight sets on Court 3, meaning one of the Commodores would have to win a third set to win the match. The double match was sealed by No. 54 Harwell, who won his third set 6-3 to defeat the Big Red.

The Commodores open their SEC campaign with two games this weekend: at home against the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday and away against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday. Vanderbilt hopes to maintain their strong form as they open the conference season against Georgia, one of the top tennis programs in the SEC.

“Yesterday was our first away day since last November, so we’re trying to get used to playing away here quickly. We know that Georgia has been the benchmark of SEC tennis for 25 years, so we start with a bang against them in Game 1. But I think our team is feeling good and happy to play,” said Duvenhage.

The game against Georgia begins Friday, March 4 at 2:00 p.m. CST.