For the women’s tennis team, spring break wasn’t exactly a “break.” Instead, it was a week-long slog through some of the toughest teams California had to offer — and even though the record didn’t end up in the Bulldogs’ favor, the experience could be just the push they need to dominate in the Ivy League matches ahead.

The Elis (4-7) took three tough losses over break, falling to Marshall (12-8), San Diego (5-13) and UC-Irvine (16-2), though they switched it up on March 16 with a 5-2 win over Cal State Northridge (6-5). The Bulldogs briefly took the No. 71 slot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National rankings — their first ranking since March of 2005 — before falling out of the rankings March 20 after losses to No. 28 Irvine, No. 72 Marshall and unranked San Diego. Still, the performance over break was motivating as well as slightly disappointing, Janet Kim ’09 said.

“We were happy with our win over Cal State Northridge because everyone played with heart, intensity, and focus,” she said. “But we were disappointed that we couldn’t keep our better play consistent — a lot of us felt like we weren’t playing at our full potential. Still, traveling to San Diego and Irvine was a great experience — we got to play teams in a completely different conference and had a lot of time to bond.”

Now the girls are looking ahead to the upcoming spring season, when they will face off against the other Ivies as well as UConn in this year’s first string of league games. Last year, they finished 4-3 in the Ancient Eight, tying for third with Princeton. And the Ivies have only grown more competitive, Christine Alford ’07 said.

“From my freshman year to the present, the Ivy League has just improved so much,” she said. “In fact, for next year’s recruiting, the highest percentage of the top players are going to the Ivies, not to big scholarship schools. That just gives an indication of how much tougher the league is going to get. In particular, Harvard has dominated in the past, although I think they’re weaker this year.”

Certainly, the Crimson’s 1-9 record justifies her assessment. But last year’s 7-0 Ivy finish indicates that to take Harvard lightly could be a costly mistake.

This year’s team boasts a large number of veterans, as only two of the team’s nine players are freshmen. Since last year, the squad has lost three players, leaving them with fewer than the previous season. But, based on the way they’re playing, that should still be enough for the Bulldogs to “do some damage this year,” Kim said.

The Bulldogs’ doubles play may be a key part of that damage. In the victory versus Northridge, two of three doubles pairs came out on top. And even in the subsequent loss to San Diego, the Elis swept the doubles matches, emerging three for three. Such results are even more impressive given that the doubles pairs have been switched up recently, Alford said. The doubles pairs faltered in the most recent match against Marshall, dropping all three matches, and they’ll need to return to their former strength to triumph in the Ivies.

For now, the Bulldogs turn their attention to their upcoming contest against Brown University in Providence. The Bears (5-7) are coming off two home-court wins, the most recent a 5-2 triumph over West Virginia. But the Elis, captain Olivia Nix ’07 said, are ready to claim a victory.

“The team has worked hard the entire year, on and off the court and in the weight room and running,” she said. “This is the part of the year where we hope to see it pay off.”