The women’s tennis team did not let jitters or shifty weather stop it from getting off to a strong start.
This past weekend, the Bulldogs competed against Princeton, Rutgers, Buffalo and Ohio State at the Princeton Invitational in New Jersey, the first event of their fall season. Despite injuries to the team, the Elis were able to beat the Tigers, the Scarlet Knights and the Bulls, but fell to the Buckeyes. Janet Kim ’09 helped lead the team by beating all four of her singles opponents during the weekend, and was the only Eli to beat her Buckeye opponent.
The invitational was a hidden dual, which means that the team played four schools separately. The outcomes do not count toward team rankings, but do count for individuals’ rankings, which will be a factor if the team tries to place into the NCAA in the spring.
“Three or four of us couldn’t play because of injuries,” Christina Cutter ’09 said. “Everyone stepped up and played with an extra effort. We lost three players over the summer and the freshmen have really stepped it up — they’re exceeding our expectations.”
The two rookies, Sarah Lederhandler and Jessica Rhee ’10, performed well, despite an anxiety that was evident during their first matches representing Yale. Lederhandler said there are notable differences between high school and collegiate tennis.
“There’s more support and it’s a lot more fun,” she said. “You feel like you’re really on a team. We practice together every single day and we eat a lot of meals together. Everyone wants to be there for each other which makes the experience more enjoyable.”
Lederhandler won two of her four singles matches. Rhee, who also went 2-for-4 in singles, expressed similar sentiments.
“In juniors, it was really different,” Rhee said. “I was traveling alone with my parents, but in college tennis, you’re hanging out with a set group of people. Not only do you have teammates who are so supportive, but you also have coaches who can help you tell you what you’re doing wrong and formulate game plans.”
The other players on the team who have had more experience as Yale athletes said they could relate to what Lederhandler and Rhee are going through.
“I was really proud of how we did considering that it was the first tournament,” Lilian Nguyen ’09 said. “I was especially happy with how the freshmen did. I was a freshman last year and as a freshman, I was really nervous for my first match, but they both did really well.”
The team is having to deal with both injuries and the graduation of three members of the last year’s lineup. But despite those struggles, the team managed to perform well over this weekend. Throughout the tournament itself, the players also improved their game, team members said.
“We finished a lot better than we started,” Christine Alford ’07 said. “A lot of match play was really intense so we were definitely feeling it physically. The quality of play improved a lot. The last set was against Rutgers, and everyone won so we played with greater consistency, better accuracy, and in general, better tennis.”
Overall, the team did well in its first event, but it is too early in the season for the team to make predictions about the upcoming season. The players said they feel confident about the tournament and are optimistic about the fall and spring seasons.
“I think the invitational was a really great learning experience so we know what we need to work on,” Christina Cutter ’09 said. “Looking at the results of this week, I think we’re going to do really well throughout the season.”