Before the women’s tennis team’s match this Sunday, head coach Katie Granson said to the Bulldogs, “Don’t just win. Completely dominate.” And that’s what they did.
With a score of 7-0, the Bulldogs rolled past Seton Hall in their second match of the season. Earlier in the week, the team beat Quinnipiac, also by a score of 7-0. Only two of the matches on Sunday were close: No. 1 doubles with Christine Alford ’07 and Aimee Kim ’07 and, later, Alford’s singles match. In both instances, the Elis overcame their initial losses by playing more aggressively at the net and cleaning up their strokes. The coach instructed each of the Elis to play at her own level and not at the level of her opponent. This required mental endurance, a key factor in tennis.
The rookies, Janet Kim ’09 and Ashley Miles ’09, also dominated their opponents and are important players in what their teammates and coaches said should be a promising spring.
“All of our freshmen are very strong,” assistant coach Danielle Lund said. “We are expecting really good things from them.”
Lund said she and Granson always emphasize the importance of not messing up the first three shots — the serve, the return and the volley. The Elis’ doubles players succeeded in doing so against the Pirates, proving particularly strong at the net. The 8–0 victory by Olivia Nix ’07 and Rashmee Patil ’07 was due largely to their aggressive poaching. Nix and Patil have been playing together since the fall and were ranked 15th in regionals. Lund said they are an “awesome” team.
Alford and Aimee Kim had more of a challenge at the top doubles spot. In the beginning of their eight-game pro set, the team was neck-and-neck with its opponents. It was only when the score became 4-4 that the tables began to turn. The girls not only poached more, but they also significantly cut down on unforced errors.
“We were playing good doubles,” Alford said. “But it was scrappy. We lost four games and needed to be a little cleaner. We were setting up but not executing.”
After winning their fifth match, Alford and Aimee Kim both cleaned up their strokes and became more focused. All of the members of the women’s tennis team came on the courts to cheer on their teammates. Even though Alford and Aimee Kim occasionally lost shots that were deep in the corners, the Elis consistently blocked those shots at the net the best that they could. They ended up beating the Pirates, 8-4.
The singles matches were also all successes, with five of the six Bulldogs winning two straight sets. Alford was the only player whose game went into a third match, but the challenge ended well for her, with scores of 3-6, 6-3 and 10-8. As she had alongside Aimee Kim in doubles, Alford became more aggressive as the match progressed. After losing the first set, Alford focused on consistency and fine-tuned her forehands and backhands. Highlights from her match included carefully placed drop-shots and, once again, solid plays at net.
Out of the six singles players, two of the winning Bulldogs were freshmen. At the No. 2 spot, Janet Kim won 6-0, 6-2, and Miles defeated her Pirate opponent 6-4, 6-1 at No. 4.
These freshmen, along with the three others, have become a huge asset to the team this year, veteran Bulldogs said. Although Lillian Nguyen ’09, Karolina Grygierowska ’09 and Christina Cutter ’09 did not play this weekend, all of them have contributed to a team that lost strong seniors in the previous year. Cutter is injured, and the team is looking forward to her recovery.
“Last year we were not playing that well at the beginning of the season,” Nguyen said. “This year we are already playing better than we were at this time last year.”
In 2005, the team ranked fourth in the league. This year the Elis are hoping to rank even higher in the Ancient Eight. While on the scoreboard the tennis team had a successful match, they are what Alford described as “reservedly optimistic” about the rest of their season.
Janet Kim said the team still has room to improve.
“We need to work on tweaking little things,” she said. “But at this level, it’s more mental.”
But Granson said after the match that she did not think there was anything specific that the Bulldogs should have done differently.
“We are fine for now, but we are looking forward to getting better,” she said.
Regardless, the team is excited about their upcoming match against UConn on Saturday and the matches that follow, especially against their biggest rival, Harvard. The Crimson are strong, and the Bulldogs know it.
Alford said she believes the Elis are strong in comparison to their rivals.
“The key to college tennis is depth in our team.” Alford said. “It’s great. The lower half of our team could be another’s middle.”