WOMEN’S TENNIS | Bulldogs fight back after ITA disappointment

Captain Elizabeth Epstein ’13 went undefeated this weekend, earning straight-set singles victories and doubles wins against both FIU and Arkansas.
Captain Elizabeth Epstein ’13 went undefeated this weekend, earning straight-set singles victories and doubles wins against both FIU and Arkansas. Photo by Brianna Loo.

After disappointment last weekend at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Mississippi, the Bulldogs made an emphatic comeback by taking down both Florida International and No. 37 Arkansas Friday and Sunday.

Playing on home turf at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, the team launched its weekend with a 6–1 win over Florida International. After losing several key doubles matches in their qualifying bid for the ITA National Championships, the Elis used the opportunity this weekend to experiment with their doubles line-up.

Team captain Elizabeth Epstein ’13 said that the team is still working out the doubles pairings that are most effective.

“It’s early in the season, and we are still trying to figure out what the best doubles combinations will be,” she said. “I imagine that the doubles lineup will change again next weekend.”

At the No. 1 spot for the first time this season, Amber Li ’15 and Hanna Yu ’15 were dealt an 8–4 blow by the Panthers on Friday. But Epstein and Madeleine Hamilton ’16 were quick to snatch a win in the Bulldogs’ favor, comfortably winning 8–1 at No. 2, while No. 3 pair Sarah Guzick ’13 and Annie Sullivan ’14 also secured an easy 8–3 win.

The Bulldogs were at ease in singles play, winning five of the six matches in straight sets. Sullivan, Li, Guzick and Hamilton assured quick wins, each dropping no more than three games over the course of two sets. Despite a closely contested first set, No. 2 Epstein prevailed in the tiebreak and went on to win 7–6, 6–0. Playing at No. 3, Yu struggled against the Panthers’ Carlotta Orlando and dropped her match 7–5, 6–0.

Sunday saw the Bulldogs confront the Arkansas Razorbacks, ranked No. 37 in the nation to the Elis’ No. 24. Though Yale eventually came out on top 4–3, the Bulldogs opened the day by conceding the doubles point with a 1–2 record. Guzick admitted the Arkansas match was a tough fight for the Elis, particularly because Sullivan and Blair Seideman ’14 were battling stomach viruses.

“We really overcame a lot of adversity on Sunday,” Guzick said. “With two regular starters out, people were put at new spots in the lineup and executed under pressure to win the match for us.”

After a string of stellar performances this season, Hamilton was unable to make it through her match against Yang Pang in the No. 1 singles spot. Ranked No. 90 nationally, Hamilton battled to take the second set but eventually fell 6–2, 6–7, 6–4 to the Razorback. Epstein had an easier ride at No. 2, notching a 6–3, 6–4 win over Claudine Paulson. Following her 6–1, 6–0 singles victory against the Panthers Friday, Sullivan proved her mettle by taking another decisive victory by the same score at No. 3. Li had similar success at No. 4, while No. 5 Guzick fell 6–2, 6–2.

Courtney Amos ’16 made her spring debut at No. 6 and came out on top 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 after a hard-fought match against Ana Lorena Belmar Hernandez.

The freshman has seen limited opportunities in the Elis’ lineup this year, but injuries and illnesses pressed her into action in both the singles and doubles competition.

Despite the unforeseen change in the lineup, Amos said she enjoyed her debut match and added that team’s progress so far has been encouraging.

“It was so much fun and very exciting to beat some very good teams, especially at the beginning of the season,” she said.

Next weekend the Bulldogs will continue their spring campaign in New York, where they will battle for a fifth consecutive ECAC Indoor Team Championship at Columbia.

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