Ask any coach the recipe for a perfect roster, and invariably one will get the same answer. Take a dash of veteran leadership, a pinch of youthful enthusiasm, and a few heaping handfuls of talent. Mix them all together — and voila, you’ve got a sweet tasting treat called success.
This season, the Yale women’s tennis team has all the right ingredients. Several accomplished upperclassmen are returning, and six new freshmen have spiced up the lineup. If head coach Meghan McMahon and her team can keep injuries from spoiling their depth, they may win an Ivy League championship.
The team, which finished fifth in the Ivies last year (12-11, 3-4 Ivy), is off to a 2-1 start in non-conference action.
Yale faced off against Michigan for its opener. The Elis lost 7-0, but took four matches to a decisive third set. Since then, Yale hasn’t lost a match, defeating both Seton Hall and Massachusetts by 7-0 scores.
“As demonstrated by our crushing defeat of Seton Hall,” captain Lauren Muehl ’01 said, “we can beat solid teams without our strongest lineup.”
Injuries have depleted the Bulldogs’ roster, so the impressive victories have come despite the absence of many starters. Wednesday’s win over Seton Hall was accomplished without four of Yale’s top players — Biffy Kaufman ’03, Meagan Caldwell ’04, Cynthia Obsitnik ’01 and Muehl.
“We just need to get healthy,” McMahon said.
The Bulldogs expect to be at full strength when it heads off on its spring break trip. Yale will face many nationally ranked teams, including Wisconsin, Fresno State and the University of California-Irvine.
“Our California trip will be a good first test,” Muehl said. “These matches will prepare us for the high level of intensity that will be needed against teams like Princeton.”
The quality of Yale’s lineup remains strong from top to bottom. In the Ivy League — because of its dense scheduling and parity — the title usually goes to the team that stays healthiest. Yale will reap the benefits of its depth since it will give its players a chance to rest during the year.
Leading the charge for the Bulldogs is Andrea Goldberg ’02. Goldberg, who played most of last year in the second position, has replaced Jackie Fu ’00, an All-Ivy singles player, in the Elis’ first spot. Last weekend, she reached the semifinals of the Princeton Invitational tournament, asserting herself as one of the Ivy League’s best.
“I am really happy with how I have played so far,” Goldberg said. “I am attacking the net and [playing] aggressively, but smart.”
Kaufman, a native Californian, has also been playing well. She posted a team best 16-8 record last year, and at the Princeton Invitational advanced to the quarterfinal round before withdrawing because of an injury.
“She is an incredibly talented serve-and-volleyer,” McMahon said.
Other returning veterans include Muehl, Liz Oosterhuis ’02 and Susie Hiniker ’03. Muehl went undefeated in the fall season but has since suffered from a shoulder injury, and hopes to recover fully in time to contribute to the Elis’ spring season.
The veterans are excited for this year’s possibilities mostly because of the addition of eager freshmen.
“We have six new freshmen who have brought a lot of new enthusiasm to our team,” Goldberg said. “The freshmen have helped make our lineup really deep.”
Purcell and Caldwell have made an immediate impact as singles stars, and twins Ashley and Karlyn Martin ’04 form a fierce doubles team.
The blend of old and young has formed a powerful team dynamic. Their early season results against Ivy teams have been promising. Goldberg, Kaufman, Hiniker and Oosterhuis proved their collective prowess in the Princeton tournament against four Ivy foes. And in the fall, Yale lost a close match to Princeton, last year’s Ivy champ, dropping a number of three-setters.
It looks really good for us this year because we are so deep,” Kaufman said. “Our toughest competition will be from Penn and Princeton, both of whom are definitely beatable.”