The Yale women’s tennis team mixed things up, going north for the winter to start its season in icy Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Bulldogs competed in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend — a tournament with four teams ranked in the top 60 held from Jan. 25–26. The tournament featured No. 54 Virginia Tech, No. 36 Yale, No. 28 Tulsa and host No. 11 Michigan in a head-to-head format where the winners of the first round faced each other for the title.
Going into the their first-round match with Tulsa, the Bulldogs were certainly the underdogs on paper. However, the Elis managed to put together a surprising come-from-behind victory against the Golden Hurricanes that was led by Annie Sullivan ’14, Hanna Yu ’15 and Ree Ree Li ’16. Madeleine Hamilton ’16 capped off the 4–3 victory by besting Tulsa’s first-ranked player. Having lost to Tulsa in doubles competition, the Elis had their backs to the wall in singles competition against the Golden Hurricanes that resulted in victories from Li, Yu and Sullivan, which forced the contest into a tie-breaker. Hamilton pulled off an upset win in this final match against Tulsa, defeating Samantha Vickers, the 47th-ranked player in the nation, 2–6, 6–3, 10–7 to push Yale through to the second round.
“It was amazing to see Madeleine come back in her match and clinch the match for the team,” Sullivan said. “She has become one of our feistiest competitors and has proven she has the ability to compete with the nation’s best.”
Sullivan’s victory also came over a ranked opponent, as she defeated Yelena Nemchen, who is the 46th-ranked player in the country according to the ITA.
Li also said the team’s upset win was an exciting moment for everyone, but added that she believed it would be but one of many to come for the Yale women’s tennis team this season.
“This is the beginning of the season and there’s so much to look forward to,” Li said.
The second match of the Bulldog’s campaign was against an even more heavily favored opponent, the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines, who had defeated Virginia Tech on the first day of the competition. In stark contrast to their comeback over Tulsa, this contest resulted in a shutout loss for the Elis.
The Wolverines defeated the Bulldogs 4–0 in the completed singles matches, as another squad featuring two Top-100 players proved too much for Yale to overcome. Momentum was a deciding factor, resulting in straight set sweeps in each of the Wolverines’ singles matches against the Elis.
“The loss was pretty disappointing. Obviously they’re a very good school, but we thought we’d come up on top,” said Yu.
The Bulldogs did manage to garner a single win in doubles against the Michigan side, as the duo of Li and Hamilton upset Michigan’s tandem of Brooke Bolender and Emina Bektas, the ninth-ranked doubles squad in the nation.
Sullivan also said the loss to the Wolverines was a tough defeat for the team as a whole.
“We fought hard but needed to raise our level [of play] and they proved to be too strong on Sunday. This loss showed us we have areas that need improvement, but we are motivated to work harder and play better the next time we face a tough opponent,” said Sullivan.
The Elis next competition is the ITA National Indoors in Charlottesville, Va., which will be held Feb. 6–9.