Women’s tennis | Starting the season in style

There will be no post-championship slacking for the women’s tennis team.

At their first tournament this academic year, the Bulldogs competed in the Cissie Leary Invitational over the weekend in Philadelphia, Penn. Janet Kim ’09 won the “Blue” singles bracket for the second-straight year.

Janet Kim ’09, who won the “Blue” singles this weekend in Pennsylvania, hits a shot against Mass. on March 26.
Charles Francis
Janet Kim ’09, who won the “Blue” singles this weekend in Pennsylvania, hits a shot against Mass. on March 26.

The three-day tournament included teams from Harvard, Penn, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton and Temple, dispersed throughout three brackets, with Kim playing as the top-seeded singles player and Kim and Lindsay Clark ’11 as the top-ranked doubles team.

Captain Lilian Nguyen ’09, who lost in the semifinals of the “White” singles bracket, said that although the tournament was for individual competition, the team emphasized its Yale camaraderie, aiming to show other Ivy teams where it stood.

“It was awesome to see Yale players in the finals of almost every draw, in both singles and doubles,” Nguyen said. “I think that bodes very well for the upcoming year.”

In four rounds of singles play, Kim lost only six games — three of which were to teammate Jessica Rhee ’10 in the finals.

Rhee said she entered the finals matchup knowing she had nothing to lose against her teammate.

“She’s our No. 1 player for a reason,” Rhee said, “and she really showed up to play that day.”

“I think Janet said to me after her matches, ‘This is becoming my normal level of play,’ ” head coach Danielle McNamara said. “That’s where you know you’re there. She’s playing really great right now and has big plans for the fall.”

In other “Blue” bracket singles action, Lauren Ritz ’11 lost in straight sets in her first-round match against a No. 3-seeded player from Harvard. The sophomore went on to win the consolation bracket, where she met teammate Clark in the finals. Clark withdrew from the match with a back injury.

“Nothing too serious,” Nguyen said of the injury, “but our coaches didn’t want her to overdo it since they want the players to peak for regionals in about a month.”

With an eye toward last season’s early injuries — when two first-string players were sidelined for weeks into the season — McNamara stressed a cautious approach to taking care of her players.

“We learned our lesson last year,” McNamara said.

In the “Red” singles bracket, Sarah Lederhandler ’10 mirrored Ritz’s performance, losing in the first round before powering to a consolation-bracket championship. The junior topped Penn’s new freshman recruit, Emily Wolf, 7-6 (0), 1-6, 10-2, in the backdraw finals.

Meanwhile, in the main “Red” draw, Vicky Brook ’12 — playing in her college tennis debut — beat Wolf in her first-round match, 7-5, 7-5, before powering through a three-set matchup in the second round. After beating Columbia’s Shoko Okuda in straight sets in the semis, Brook fell to Cornell’s Stephanie Kent, 6-4, 6-4, in a college-freshman showdown. Kent had previously eliminated Stevi Petrelli ’11 in the semifinals en route to her victory.

Brook said although her matches went well, she struggled mentally and physically, dealing with two sprained ankles and fatigue from full days on the court. Nguyen conceded that freshman-year matches can often prove “nerve-wracking,” but that Brook performed well under the pressure.

“There were just a few points here and there between a win and a loss,” Brook said. “I need to be able to maximize on the small opportunities to result in bigger opportunities.”

In doubles play, a partnership of Nguyen and Ritz won the backdraw of the “Blue” bracket with an 8-1 conquest in the finals.

Brook said that of the competing schools, Harvard looked especially strong, having recruited five solid freshmen to the team.

But, she added: “Their team spirit has a long way to go, though, to out-noise us.”

McNamara said the Bulldogs will not compete in the ITA All-American tournament in California this weekend, which was based on selection, but will be ready to compete again the following weekend in the USTA Invitational in Flushing, N.Y.

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