The women’s tennis team plays its final nonconference match against Syracuse (4-6) Saturday before starting the rigors of Ivy League play against nationally ranked No. 18 Harvard Tuesday.

The Bulldogs (9-1) lost for the first time this season to the University of San Diego March 13. They have not played a match since that loss.

“The loss in San Diego has really motivated us to not let it happen again,” captain Biffy Kaufman ’03 said. “The loss has helped to wake us up and realize that we still have a lot of important matches left this season.”

In that loss, the Bulldogs failed to secure the doubles point that sets the tone for the rest of the match. Kaufman said the team has spent lots of practice time since the San Diego match working on doubles play and examining new combinations for the Ivy League season.

The Elis have kept their lineup mostly intact since beginning dual match play during the spring semester, with the exception of moving switching Stephanie White ’05 and Karlyn Martin ’04 between No. 1 and No. 2 doubles. White now plays No. 2.

But in singles action, Yale had kept its positions the same, other than in a blowout over the University of Massachusetts. Yet against San Diego, Kaufman and Margaret Purcell ’04 flip-flopped at singles No. 1 and No. 2.

Head coach Chad Skorupka refused to comment on the reasons for the change or on its permanence.

“For that day, we went with that lineup,” Skorupka said. “For Syracuse, it’s undetermined now. We do what we think gives us the best chance of winning that match.”

Though Skorupka acknowledged the importance of the Harvard match, he was reluctant to overlook Syracuse, which is 4-6 this season and has not been nationally ranked since March 2001.

“I expect Syracuse to come out and challenge us,” Skorupka said. “They have nothing to lose at this point in the season — The Harvard match, yes, is a very big, big match. On paper, this year they are the team to beat in the Ivies. Currently, they are No. 18 in the country and have four players ranked in the singles rankings.”

Kaufman said Harvard would be Yale’s toughest match of the season but a contest the Bulldogs look forward to.

It’s not just Harvard, though. Yale will open the Ivy season on a three game away stretch. That span starts April 8 against the Crimson (10-3, 0-0) and ends at No. 41 University of Pennsylvania (11-4, 2-0), with No. 73 Princeton (7-3, 0-0) sandwiched in between.

“It is going to be an intense week,” Kaufman said. “But this is what we practice for and look forward to all year, so we’re all ready and excited for it.”

But first, the Elis must get past Syracuse.