The women’s tennis team, battered but not broken after an early-weekend loss, came back with a vengeance Saturday to win its second Ivy League match of the season.
The Bulldogs (7-8, 2-1 Ivy) fell 5-2 to Ivy powerhouse Penn (13-4, 3-0) on Friday in Philadelphia but turned the tables the next afternoon with a 5-2 victory over Princeton (9-7, 1-2). The win was enough to propel the Elis into third place in the Ivy League standings, just behind undefeated leaders Cornell (10-2, 3-0) and Penn and just ahead of 2005-’06 champion Harvard (3-12, 1-1).
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“Penn is a very strong team,” Christine Alford ’07 said. “It was a disappointing result in that every match was so close that if we’d had a bit more focus and a bit more belief in ourselves, maybe we could have turned it around.”
The Bulldogs’ powerful singles play of the previous weekend faltered somewhat against the Quakers, who took all but one of the singles matches of the event. Jessica Rhee ’10 was the only Eli to emerge victorious, taking down her No. 4 singles opponent 6-2, 7-6. But even though the Quakers dominated in numbers, the Bulldogs remained close enough to make them sweat on several occasions. Alford took her first set 6-3 before falling 3-6, 1-6 to her No. 3 singles foe, and Sarah Lederhandler ’10 gave the No. 2 Quaker a run for her money, finishing 4-6, 6-7.
The Bulldogs’ doubles play was a bright spot in what was ultimately a tough day. Victories at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles gave the Elis the point for the match. And though that single hard-earned point wasn’t enough to hand them the overall victory, the momentum the doubles point can impart to a team is invaluable, head coach Danielle Lund said.
“Winning the doubles point means that you head into singles with a great momentum,” she said. “So we had an excellent start winning that point — we had the momentum — but we lost focus and ultimately didn’t end up winning those singles matches.”
The same would not be true the next day, when the Elis again took the doubles point and successfully used that momentum to their advantage. A pair of 8-5 wins at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles led into a triumphant singles showing against the Tigers. Alford avenged her Friday loss, crushing her opponent 6-4, 6-2, as Lilian Nguyen ’09 smashed her No. 6 singles competitor 6-2, 6-0. And Rhee proved her resilience when, after losing the first set 2-6, she came back to win the next two 6-2, 7-5.
“The girls were just extremely determined to beat Princeton,” Lund said. “It was one of those things where while you watched them, you knew they would find a way to win. Knowing we had chances against Penn meant that we were going to beat Princeton no matter what. We just wanted it more than they did — we were a little bit hungrier than they were.”
Now the Bulldogs look to what Alford called a “big weekend,” when they will face Ivies Cornell and Columbia (4-5, 1-2) at home. Though Cornell is tied with Penn for Ivy wins, its overall win percentage is the highest in the league. And Columbia may be farther down the list, but the Elis aren’t counting the Lions out just yet, captain Olivia Nix ’07 said, especially not after last year’s tight 4-3 match, which the Bulldogs lost in spite of grabbing the doubles point.
“Both Columbia and Cornell should be tough matches,” she said. “But I do think so far this season we’ve played really well on our home courts, so hopefully that continues through the weekend to come.”