After cracking the nation’s Top 40, the women’s tennis team now looks to continue climbing the national rankings.
While Ivy League play does not start until April, matches against Ohio State (5-0) Saturday and Boston College (5-2) Sunday could have a major impact on whether Yale reaches the NCAA tennis team tournament later this spring.
Following a strong sweep through North Carolina, the nationally ranked No. 37 Bulldogs (8-0) obtained their highest ranking ever, head coach Chad Skorupka said. A 4-3 win over then-nationally ranked No. 13 Wake Forest propelled the Bulldogs into the rankings.
“[The team’s record] gives us a lot more confidence, but at the same time gives the other teams that much more incentive to beat us,” captain Biffy Kaufman ’03 said.
Although Yale is ranked above nationally ranked No. 44 Ohio State and unranked Boston College, Skorupka said the Bulldogs will not underestimate either team.
“Beating Wake Forest does not mean we can overlook Ohio State and Boston College,” Juliette Vartikar ’06 said.
This weekend represents the stronger scheduling Skorupka has instituted, adding teams from top conferences to the Elis’ lineup.
“One thing I’ve tried to do in my second year is to upgrade our schedule,” Skorupka said. “We want to work hard in practice to compete against top competition.”
Skorpuka said the Buckeyes, who beat then-nationally ranked No. 28 Michigan in their last match, are the first Big Ten opponent for Yale in years. Yale made short work of the Eagles — a competitive Big East opponent — 4-3 in each of the past two years.
Skorupka said wins over more respected teams will help the team achieve its top goal: a bid to the NCAA tennis team tournament in May.
There are two ways to qualify for the 64-team tournament: either winning one of the 32 conference championships or gaining an at-large bid based on record and schedule strength. With nationally ranked No. 35 Harvard and nationally ranked No. 39 the University of Pennsylvania looking formidable after tying for the Ivy League championship last season, an automatic bid from an Ivy League championship will be difficult. Yale may rely on its impressive nonconference start to earn an at-large bid; the Bulldogs won their last Ivy League title in 1989.
“We’re in a good position right now, but we don’t start the Ivy League until April 8 [at Harvard] and haven’t been talking about the Ivy,” Skorupka said. “We’ve got a good opportunity this weekend: our last matches until spring break.”
The team has focused on improving its doubles play in preparation for this weekend, Kaufman and Vartikar said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of volley drills and doubles drills in practice,” said Kaufman, who plays No. 1 doubles with Stephanie White ’05.
Over spring break the team will visit San Diego, where it will face opponents from the competitive Pacific Athletic Conference and Western Athletic Conference.