Perhaps Sarah Lederhandler ’10 put it best: “We just rock doubles.”
Over the weekend, the Bulldogs (9-8, 4-1 Ivy) certainly did rock doubles — and everything else, too. The women’s tennis team flattened Columbia (4-8, 1-4) on Friday in a 6-1 blowout that turned out to be merely the lead-in to Saturday, when they annihilated erstwhile league leader Cornell (10-4, 3-2), 7-0. The victory placed the Bulldogs firmly in second in the Ivy League, just behind undefeated Penn (12-4, 5-0).
Friday started off with a bang for the Elis, as they swept all three of the doubles matches, including an 8-0 shutout in No. 3 doubles by Lindsey Dashiell ’08 and Janet Kim ’09. That momentum served them well in singles play — the Bulldogs took five of the six singles matches, four of them straight-set victories. Only Kim’s opponent at No. 1 singles managed to pull out a 7-5 victory in the second set, but even that proved to be in vain when Kim came back in the third to win the tiebreaker 10-5. Meanwhile, Lederhandler disposed neatly of her No. 2 singles opponent 6-0, 6-1, and No. 3 singles player Christine Alford ’07 took out her designated Lion 6-1, 6-0. Jessica Rhee ’10 and Lilian Nguyen ’09, at Nos. 4 and 6 singles, respectively, also emerged triumphant from their matches.
“Everyone has just really been doing their part,” head coach Danielle Lund said. “It’s hard to do individual singles work during practice, so the girls have been coming in on their own to work on singles play. Everyone across the board has been putting in extra work, and they’re really beginning to believe in themselves and play with confidence.”
The day’s only bleak spot came in No. 5 singles, when captain Olivia Nix ’07 had to forfeit in the first set despite her 5-0 lead due to shoulder and back problems. And though the injury wasn’t severe, bowing out was a smart decision, Lund said.
Saturday’s match was expected to be tough, as the Big Red had been at the top of the Ivy League until just the day before when they fell 4-3 to Brown (7-11, 2-3). But the Elis were up to the challenge, sweeping all three doubles matches for the second time in two days and carrying that performance into singles. In fact, the Elis dropped only one set through the entire match, when Nguyen lost her first 3-6 but came back to take the second 6-3 and the tiebreaker 10-5.
“I think we simply wanted [the victory] more,” Kim said. “We saw that they were confident from the start, but I think our combination of confidence and fire was what made the difference. We didn’t want to give them even an inch, and I think that’s why we won so decisively.”
Next week, the Bulldogs face defending Ivy League champion Harvard (3-14, 1-3) in Boston. The Crimson is far weaker this season and is struggling to stay afloat in an Ivy League that gets more competitive every year. But that still doesn’t mean they can be taken lightly, Alford said.
“There has always been a strong Harvard-Yale rivalry between the two teams in women’s tennis,” she said. “Both teams step it up for this dual match each year. So even though Harvard hasn’t had the best results of late, we have to go in there with the same focus and concentration we have dedicated to our other opponents.”
The squad has just two matches to play in the season, and will retain its second-place title if it comes out with a win in both. Furthermore, there is the possibility of a championship if the Quakers drop a match somewhere along the line. But for now, the team is focusing on Harvard, Lund said.
“Moving into first is out of our control, but we certainly can control our own final two matches,” she said. “If we just focus on the things we can control and play the tennis we want to play, we’ll be fine.”