The Ivy League is looking extremely competitive this year, and as Christine Alford ’07 put it, first place may be “anybody’s title.” But the women’s tennis team took the first step toward claiming that title this weekend, annihilating Brown in the first conference event of the season.
The Bulldogs (5-7, 1-0 Ivy) dominated the Bears (5-8, 0-1) on Saturday in an impressive 6-1 victory in Providence, winning five of six singles matches, as well as matches in No. 1 and 2 doubles. The meeting was the Elis’ first since a grueling string of matches in California over spring break. It was also their most decisive win since mid-February, and as such, a powerful opening to the Ivy League matches could foretell a strong showing in the conference, Janet Kim ’09 said.
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“Our 5-2 win over Brown last year gave us confidence going into this year’s match, and we all stepped up and played well,” she said. “We know that with this win we’re one step closer to the Ivy crown, but we still need to focus on one match at a time.”
Kim crushed opponent Daisy Ames in No. 1 singles, finishing 6-3, 6-1 in the most absolute victory of the day. In No. 2 singles, Sarah Lederhandler ’10 took the first set 6-2 before dropping the second set 2-6. But she came back in the third, doling out a 6-3 win that gave her the match. Meanwhile, Alford took her match 6-4, 6-4, and Jessica Rhee ’10 snagged a straight-set victory at No. 4 singles 6-3, 6-3. Captain Olivia Nix ’07 proved that she knew how to stage a comeback when, after losing the first set 1-6, she dealt her opponent in No. 5 singles a resounding 6-2 defeat in the second and won the match 10-6 in a third-set tiebreaker.
“I was really pleased with our singles performance,” head coach Danielle Lund said. “I do think, though, we could have played a little better in doubles. But that we still pulled it out even though our doubles play wasn’t the best is certainly a good and encouraging sign.”
The Bulldogs snapped up wins in both No. 1 and No. 2 doubles, enough to give them the doubles point for the match, though they did take a tough 8-2 loss at No. 3. Alford described the doubles play as “pretty tight,” but the Elis’ rigorous training over the past week gave them the push they needed to eclipse their Ivy foes, she said.
“Last week’s practice was not enjoyable,” she said. “The winds we were playing in were so strong. Then we went to Brown, and it was a pretty still day — and our games were just at an entirely different level. Having worked in such difficult conditions during training made our matches seem so much easier.”
Now, the Bulldogs look toward today’s non-conference match against UConn (7-7), which starts at 2:30. The Huskies are coming off a four-match winning streak, but judging from last year’s 7-0 victory, the Elis can more than stand up to their fellow Nutmeg State denizens.
Unlike the vast majority of the Bulldogs’ spring matchups, this one will be played at home. Only six of the spring’s 19 matches will be played in New Haven, Alford said, and this rare home court advantage is not something the team wants to waste.
“Playing matches at home is always an advantage due to home court familiarity, fans, and especially pride,” Kim said. “Playing home matches definitely gives us a mental edge — no team wants to be beaten on its own turf, and we are no exception.”
Entering a critical part of the season when almost every match is a conference event, the challenge is more exciting than nerve-racking, Alford said.
“We train really, really hard [all year],” she said. “And so, when we get to this crucial point in the season, how can we not be excited?”