The women’s tennis team stands on the threshold of the main stage, and this weekend’s USTA Team Invitational continued the program’s recent approach toward the limelight.
Playing against some of the top teams in the nation, including No. 4 Kentucky, No. 10 Clemson University, No. 14 Baylor, No. 16 Harvard and No. 31 Texas A&M, the Elis met mixed results in singles and doubles competition. But many players said they found this weekend most beneficial because it helped them face elite competition and spread the name of Yale Tennis.
Rain shook up the draws, forcing players to disperse from the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY to courts across New York City and beyond. Each flight was split in half to shorten the tournament, and teams split up to play at locations in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn and even West Point.
Ashley Miles ’09 and Lilian Nguyen ’09 led the Bulldogs, with Miles winning the C Flight singles title Monday. Nguyen reached the semifinals of the D Flight singles draw, winning two matches despite facing a match point in each. She said facing such strong competition, even with relatively little collegiate experience, did not feel like a new experience.
“I wasn’t intimidated because I knew a lot of the players from junior tennis,” Nguyen said. “We certainly don’t feel like we’re any worse or anything, we’re right there with them.”
Aimee Kim ’07 and Christina Cutter ’09 defeated a doubles team from the University of Kentucky which entered the weekend ranked fourth in the nation en route to reaching the semifinals of the B Flight doubles draw.
Due to the rain, the two played all of their doubles matches Saturday, but Cutter withdrew Sunday due to a shoulder injury that has plagued her since her sophomore year of high school. Despite the injury, Cutter said she was encouraged.
“I hadn’t played with Aimee before this weekend, so it was really exciting to go in there and be successful right from the start,” she said.
All fall the team has envisioned wins like these against marquee programs, victories that could vault Yale Women’s Tennis onto the national stage. Cutter and other players said they have noticed some newfound attention.
“Our coaches had told us that everyone was walking around at the tournament and sort of belittling Yale,” Cutter said. “But then after we beat Kentucky people were saying, ‘Hey, they beat Kentucky, that’s pretty good.'”
This weekend’s tournament and exposure were continuations of an increasing number of higher profile events. Two weeks ago the Elis played at the University of Maryland, matching up against the likes of Duke, Maryland, Washington State, LSU, and Notre Dame. And last week, Rashmee Patil ’07 helped spread the program’s reputation all the way to Los Angeles.
Patil was invited to compete in pre-qualifying for one of college tennis’ four grand slams, the ITA All-America Tournament. She fell in the first round to Macall Harkins of the University of Illinois, 6-0, 6-2.
Despite the convincing loss, Granson saw it as a significant stride for the program.
“Lots of schools were surprised to see Yale out there, but we wanted to get the name out there,” Granson said. “We want to get used to being visible on the national level. This was a huge step for our program.”