Four members of Yale’s women’s tennis team traveled to the three-day Duke Fab-Four Invitational Tournament to begin its fall season.
The tournament consists of 16 of the top teams in the country. The Bulldogs’ mission last weekend was to prove they are still a force to be reckoned with.
“We were all really excited to play in this tournament because we have never gone to the Duke Invitational before,” captain Elizabeth Epstein ’13 said. “We just wanted to continue making a statement and proving to the rest of the colleges how good we are.”
Last spring, the Elis enjoyed an incredibly successful season, making it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to then-No. 5 Stanford.
Last weekend in North Carolina, the Bulldogs started their fall season by taking on grade-A competition. Four players made the trip down south: Epstein, Blair Seideman ’14, Ree Ree Li ’16 and Madeleine Henry ’16. Each competed in one of the three singles brackets at the tournament. Each bracket was intended to be of equal difficulty.
In the blue bracket, Epstein, currently ranked No. 85 in the country, lost her first match to No. 55, Caroline Rohde-Moh of Ole Miss. Epstein more than made up for her loss, though, in the finals of the consolation bracket against Elizabeth Begley of the University of Texas. Epstein claimed the title in a tiebreak, 7–4, after splitting the first two sets.
Epstein was pleased with her team’s performance and her own, but was already looking forward to the rest of what promises to be a productive fall.
“It’s great that we have so many opportunities in the fall to play such highly ranked players,” Epstein said.
In the black bracket, Li also fell in her debut 6–4, 6–1 to UNC’s Gina Suarez-Malguti. Li then made the semifinals of the consolation bracket, where she bowed out to Duke’s No. 68 Ester Goldfield. However, in the third place consolation match, Li put up a strong fight before succumbing to William & Mary’s Hope Johnson, 3–6, 6–3 (6).
In the white bracket, both Seideman and Hamilton won their first-round matches. Seideman advanced to the quarterfinals, where she lost to Duke’s No. 35 Hanna Mar, 6–4, 6–4. However, in her next match, Seideman defeated UNC’s No. 71 Caroline Price in three sets to set up a fifth-place match on Sunday. She took fifth place in straight sets, 6–1, 6–4, against Miami’s No. 64 Lina Lileikite. Seideman emphasized that playing the best is the only way to become better.
“This was a great opportunity for us to keep building our program up,” Seideman said. “We have more chances at beating top ranked players.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton reached the semifinals of the white bracket, winning her first two matches as a Bulldog. In the semifinals, though, she lost out to Texas’ Noel Scott, 6–0, 6–2. On Sunday, Hamilton competed for third place against the other semifinalist, Alabama’s No. 10 Mary Anne Macfarlane. Hamilton and Macfarlane split the first two sets before Macfarlane topped Hamilton in a tiebreak, 7–5. A North Carolina native, Hamilton saw the weekend as a successful learning experience.
“My last match was actually really good even though I lost it,” Hamilton said. “I feel like I learned a lot in my matches.”
Doubles was the Bulldogs’ strength last season. It was rare for the team ever to drop a doubles point. In North Carolina, doubles matches were split into two brackets, A and B. As in singles, in both doubles brackets Yale matched up against extremely good competition.
In the A bracket, the pairing of Epstein and Seideman took on Texas A&M’s Stefania Hristov and Wen Sun, falling just short, 8–6. However, the duo made it all the way to the consolation finals before losing out 8–4 against Julia Jones and Erin Stephens of Ole Miss.
In the B bracket, the two freshmen Li and Hamilton paired up to win the consolation bracket. Li and Hamilton were edged out 8–5 by UNC’s Lauren McHale and Caroline Price in the first round before beating Hope Johnson and Anik Cepeda of William & Mary 9–7 to reach the consolation finals. In the finals, the duo knocked off Purdue’s Linda Xepoleas and Daniela Vidal 9–8 for the title.
Next weekend, the women’s team will compete at the Cissie Leary Invitational in Philadelphia.