Can a team stay competitive without a challenge? The women’s tennis team answered in the affirmative and proved their assertion by adhering to a hard-hitting strategy this Saturday in their third sweep of the season against Syracuse University.
The Bulldogs (5-0) have played only one ranked team in the spring campaign to date, but they approach the matches in the undemanding portion of the schedule with playoff spirit and focus. This inexorable approach was on full display at the Cullman Courts Saturday, as Yale did not drop a set on the day.
The early scouting report on Syracuse (5-4) indicated that doubles were the Orangewomen’s forte. Though winning two out of the three matches in the doubles round only contributes one point toward the final score, even such a minor deficiency heading into singles play can be a momentum stopper.
“We wanted to start out quickly and get the lead,” Karlyn Martin ’04 said. “The plan was to get out of the gate quickly and stay aggressive.”
Martin teamed up with her twin sister Ashley ’04 and set the table by outlasting Masha Kabanova and Shervin Saedinia 8-6. Playing out of the No. 2 spot, the Eli duo of Biffy Kaufman ’03 and Stephanie White ’05 won uncontested, 8-0, to clinch the pivotal point. Finishing the doubles sweep, captain Liz Oosterhuis ’02 and Susie Hiniker ’02 edged out Orangewomen Alexa Konstand and Daniela Kaluskova by a score of 9-7.
In the singles round, Margaret Purcell ’04, ranked No. 126 in the nation, maintained her pristine season record by defeating Kabanova 6-2, 6-0. Purcell repeatedly finished her points at the net by maintaining an uncompromising methodology — set up easy volley opportunities by being a dogged force at the baseline.
“I had faced [Kabanova] earlier this fall, so I was familiar with her style of play and the way she competed mentally,” Purcell said. “I knew that it was important to constantly keep the pressure on and stay aggressive because she would eventually get down on herself and let it negatively affect her game.”
Playing out of the No. 2 spot, Kaufman won the first set decisively 6-2, but in the second, Kaluskova applied more heat. Kaufman responded by elevating her play to take the set, 7-5.
“I had a few opportunities to close out,” Kaufman said, “but she started to play more intensely and I just had to stay focused to finish it off.”
Oosterhuis outmatched Kristine Holte, 6-1, 6-1, and rookie White defeated Jessica Schlosser by an identical score. To wrap up the victory, Karlyn Martin handed Marion Charlier a straight sets loss, 6-3, 6-4.
In the absence of stiff competition, the women challenged themselves. They employed tactics honed in practice to perfection. The Bulldogs cut down on the number of draining points and forced their opponents into defensive mode by coming into the net to drive the ball with authority.
“Much of tennis is mental, so having played a lot of matches these past couple of months, and having had success early in the season, hopefully will help once we begin our Ivy schedule,” Purcell said.
It was not a break-neck paced game, but the Elis chalked up one more for the win column in fine form.
The team will head west over spring break to play the University of California-Irvine, Long Beach State University and the University of California-Santa Barbara.