W. tennis oppose elite in Flushing

With Monday’s conclusion of the USTA Women’s College Tennis Invitational, the Bulldogs brought to a close a strong performance in their last autumn tournament before regionals, which players hope is indicative of an even better spring season to come.

Janet Kim ’09 advanced to the quarterfinals in Flight A Singles, Jessica Rhee ’10 finished in the Flight B Singles semifinals, and doubles partners Sarah Lederhandler ’10 and Christine Alford ’07 achieved a semifinals finish in A Doubles. The Elis were thrilled with the team’s results from the tournament, held at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Queens, N.Y..

“We faced a lot of top-tier schools [in the USTA tournament],” said captain Olivia Nix ’07, who did not participate in the tournament due to a back injury but did attend one day of play. “Because of that, the results we came out with are really positive. This wasn’t just an Ivy competition — we were playing against some extremely good teams.”

The USTA invitational included 20 different schools, and the talent levels of the college teams in the tournament made such a finish for Yale sensational, Alford said.

“This tournament is always really tough, so [what we did] is a great achievement,” Alford said. “With our results, we showed that we can stand up against the really big schools that have equally big programs. [My performance] was a really great achievement. It was very rewarding [to finish in the semis].”

Lederhandler agreed with her doubles partner.

“I was nervous going in, because as players in A Doubles, we’d be facing the top teams from the other schools,” she said. “But then we got started, and we ended up playing really well.”

Lilian Nguyen ’09 said although the strength of Yale’s finish was not necessarily reflected on the scoreboard, the improvement the squad has shown over the course of their tenure on the team, the fall season, and through the tournament itself was obvious.

“I’m really happy [with my own improvement],” Nguyen said. “For example, there’s this girl I played literally five times last year, and she beat me badly every time. But I played her this year, and I came so close to winning. I really had a chance this time, and it’s just been one summer.”

Despite a substantial number of losses, Nix said there were many positive things to take away from the tournament.

“Even the matches of the girls who lost tended to be very tight matches that really could have gone either way,” she said.

A two-week gap separates this USTA tournament and the Eastern Regionals, and players will find out today whether or not they qualify for Regionals. Ideally, the Yale team will see at least four of its players make the cut, Nix said.

The fall season will end following Regionals, and the spring season starts up immediately after Christmas break — a season for which Nguyen now holds high hopes.

“I think that [the spring season] is going to be great,” Nguyen said. “I mean, I thought our team last year was good, but even then we didn’t have nearly as good a start as we have this year.”

During the spring season, the team will compete in the Ivy League title race, which Nix said will be especially competitive this year.

In the meantime the USTA tournament gave the Bulldogs the opportunity to watch the other Ivy League teams, all of whom attended the gathering in Flushing Meadows.

“We definitely looked very strong, and if we can continue with the improvement that I’ve seen, we’re definitely going to be a threat to the rest of the Ivy League,” she said.

Lindsey Dashiell ’08 believed that such confidence in her team’s prospects is by no means unfounded.

“We’ve got a great outlook for spring,” she said. “I mean, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t just continue to go up and up — to get better and better.”

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