Maybe in a few months the women’s tennis team will see different results.
But this weekend, facing more experienced teams and better competition than in the season’s first three matches, the young Bulldogs faltered and sustained their first two losses of the season. The Elis (3-2) fell to No. 52 Boston College (5-1) on Saturday, 5-2, then lost to Boston University (7-3) on Sunday, 4-3.
After opening the 2006 spring campaign with convincing 7-0 thumpings of Quinnipiac, Seton Hall and Connecticut, the Bulldogs approached this weekend’s trip to Boston as a barometer of how good they could be. But instead of heading into spring break with an undefeated record and burgeoning confidence, they will board a plane to Tampa with a series of unanswered questions.
“I think this weekend was a little disappointing because these were two teams we thought we could beat,” Yale head coach Katie Granson said. “We wanted to see where we stand against tougher competition, which we did. We know we are as good as those teams; there are just a few things we need to work on as players and as competitors.”
Despite winning the lone doubles point available in both matches, the Elis were unable to secure enough points in singles to down either the Eagles or the Terriers.
On Saturday in Chestnut Hill, Mass., captain Olivia Nix ’07 claimed the sole singles victory at the number five slot, beating Boston College’s Sarah Svoboda, 6-4, 6-3. Nix then paired up with Rashmee Patil ’07 to win the second doubles match, 8-3, against Szilvia Szegedi and Alina Sullivan. Lindsey Dashiell ’08 and Janet Kim ’09 also won in doubles, 8-2, to secure the doubles point.
The same two doubles pairings won on Sunday in Boston, too. Nix went undefeated on the weekend, going 4-0 in two singles and two doubles matches.
Patil, who played at the number one spot both days, lost her singles match on Saturday to the Eagles’ Szegedi, 6-2, 6-3, but still finished with three wins over the weekend.
Granson said the pairing of Nix and Patil provided a spark for the other Bulldogs.
“I think Rashmee Patil and Olivia Nix played really, really well,” she said. “They showed a lot of toughness this weekend.”
But that spark could not give the rest of the team much success. Sunday’s contests almost perfectly mirrored Saturday’s. Nix and Patil accounted for the team’s only two singles victories, and the Bulldogs secured the doubles point. Disappointing miscues in the singles competitions again gave the match away.
Kim, who only played doubles this weekend, said some players got caught up in their mistakes and fell victim to debilitating frustration.
“We’ll definitely improve with more experience,” Kim said. “You can’t play your best tennis all the time. The only way to improve is to learn to play with what you’ve got that day.”
That improvement will come with time. But at present, the Bulldogs, whose roster does not include a single senior, are still trying to make up for the unavoidable experience gap that factors into almost every match.
Granson said the early season will help speed up the learning curve before heading into spring break and Ivy League competition.
“This is the first time our freshmen have been challenged at this level,” she said.
Early March will provide the best measuring stick before entering league play. The Elis will head to Tampa and southern Florida, where matchups with schools such as South Florida and Duke will test the rookies.
Dashiell said the weekend’s matches served as a preview of what is to come in March.
“I think this weekend was a great opportunity to see the kind of competition well be seeing in Florida,” she said. “Having so many freshmen and so many stepping into the lineup to see that type of competition was good.”
Tennis in the South, which allows for year-round outdoor training, is noticeably more powerful than in the Northeast. There are far more programs with depth that remains unmatched above the Mason-Dixon Line. Granson said she hopes the toughness that Nix and Patil showed this weekend will rub off on the other underclassmen once they are subjected to the heat of spring break competition.
“[Southern teams] learn how to battle better, because teams down south have to battle hard every match,” she said.
For such a young team, learning to battle will become invaluable against older teams later in the season. Karolina Grygierowska ’09, one of five rookies who will continue to progress as the spring approaches, said the weekend’s losses were just small bumps in the road — bumps from which the team will learn.
“We’re going to keep working hard,” she said. “Our confidence isn’t shattered. This is just another challenge, and we’re going to work through it.”