For the women’s tennis team, being seeded third for the ECAC Championship may have been just the incentive the Bulldogs needed.
After 6–1 victories over both Boston University and Harvard, as well as a 4–0 victory over Dartmouth, the Elis (8–1) won their second consecutive ECAC Championship in Cambridge, Mass., this past weekend.
“We came to this tournament seeded third, and we knew that we were the best team there,” said Jessie Rhee ’10, who won all her singles matches at the tournament. “So the way we were going to prove it was by winning on the tennis court.”
As the No. 3 seed, the Elis played their first match against sixth-seeded Boston University, whom they had defeated earlier in the season by a score of 6–1. Friday morning’s match went similarly well, with Yale taking the doubles point and five of six singles matches to win 6–1.
Still, the Elis did not underestimate the Terriers, Rhee said.
“We definitely didn’t take them lightly,” she said. “We went out there even more prepared because they were gunning for us even more because they had lost.”
In the second round, Yale took the court against rival Harvard on Saturday afternoon. This marked the Elis’ first match against the Crimson since last April, when the Bulldogs were defeated by a score of 5–2 — a loss that cost them the 2009 Ivy League Championship.
At the conclusion of the match against Harvard last spring, coach Danielle McNamara had a student take a picture of the scoreboard displaying the final tally.
“I printed it off before we left for the tournament because I had a feeling we would play them on Saturday,” McNamara said.
She said she added a motivational quote to the photo and handed it out Friday night to give the team added incentive before Saturday’s match.
Yale started Saturday’s match off strong, winning two of the three doubles matches to claim the doubles point. The duos of Vicky Brook ’12 and Linday Clark ’11, and Stevi Petrelli ’11 and Sarah Lederhandler ’10 took down Harvard by scores of 8–2 and 8–3, respectively, to give the Bulldogs an early lead.
Only three of six courts were available for singles play because the match took place at the same time as the Princeton-Dartmouth match. The first wave of singles contests included matches between the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 seeds, and Yale struggled early on. All three Elis lost their first sets, but both No. 3 Rhee and No. 5-seed Elizabeth Epstein ’13 were able to come back and win their matches.
“Everyone continued fighting, and two out of three came back and won in really long, tough matches,” Petrelli said. “We won by a pretty sound score. It felt really good after losing to them last year.”
Beating Harvard allowed Yale to advance to the finals, where the Bulldogs had a convincing 4–0 victory over No. 5 Dartmouth. The doubles point, combined with singles victories from Brook, Rhee and Epstein gave the Elis the four points they needed to clinch the match and the ECAC Championship.
McNamara and team members agreed that the tournament win gives the Elis extra confidence going into a tough weekend against ranked teams, and going forward as they prepare for the Ivy League season in April.
Yale, ranked No. 43 going into last weekend, will host No. 44 William & Mary this coming Saturday and No. 19 Vanderbilt Sunday at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center. Rhee said the team’s victory over No. 54 Wake Forest earlier this season proves that the Elis can beat teams ranked above them.
“There isn’t a team on our schedule that we have left that we can’t beat,” McNamara said.
Yale’s lone loss so far this season came at No. 1 Duke on Jan. 30.