A team meeting apparently turned around a struggling women’s tennis team during their tournament last weekend.
The Bulldogs traveled to Kalamazoo, Mich. to compete in the Western Michigan University Super Challenge. While they suffered many close defeats as a team early in the tournament, the Elis seemed to recover Saturday and Sunday. Jessica Rhee ’10 stood out, individually winning the Black Singles Draw, 6-2, 6-1, defeating Western Michigan’s Amanda Moccia in the finals.
Yale, ranked No. 73 in the nation, faced stiff competition as they shared the courts with No. 24 Indiana, No. 31 Wichita State, No. 63 Western Michigan and DePaul. The Elis’ successes this season have come against other Ivy League foes or against teams ranked lower than the Bulldogs.
“We scheduled this tournament to challenge and push ourselves and to see how we could do against higher-ranked teams,” Lilian Nguyen ’09 said.
Nguyen said the team was not sure what to expect since the Elis had never played the other teams before. On Friday. the Bulldogs won only two out of their seven first-round singles matches, with Rhee and Lindsay Clark ’11 winning their singles matches, and were zero for three in doubles matches on the day.
Friday’s theme seemed to be close defeat for the Elis. Janet Kim ’09 narrowly lost her first match in the Gold Draw to Indiana’s Charlotte Martin, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6), with both games going to tiebreakers. In the Silver Singles Draw, Sarah Lederhandler ’10 also struggled, barely losing her first match to Western Michigan’s Priyanka Parekh, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 1-0 (9).
In the Black Singles Draw, Nguyen lost the first game of her match with finalist Moccia in a tie break before losing the match, 7-6, 6-0. The doubles team of Rhee and Lederhandler also lost to Western Michigan in a 9-8 (5) nail-biter.
After the tumultuous day, the Bulldogs called a team meeting to regroup.
“[Friday] was really hard,” Rhee said. “We had a team meeting and reevaluated everything that happened.”
In explaining the team’s struggles, Rhee pointed to the Elis’ inability to close out points Friday, which she said is crucial for victory in the close matches in which the Bulldogs competed.
Lauren Ritz ’11 said all team members were involved in the discussion on Friday.
“Everyone was really pumped up and wanted to make a statement,” she said after the meeting. “Everyone was really positive about turning things around.”
The Elis took that positive energy and turned it into success Saturday and Sunday. In the extra matches played on Saturday, Bulldog doubles teams went a perfect 7-0. Rhee said the newfound doubles success may have been due in part to shaking up the team pairings after Friday’s matches.
“[Coach Lund] switched up the [doubles] teams on Saturday since the first day did not go as well [as hoped],” she said.
Following on their doubles success, the Elis won six of their eight singles matches Sunday.
Rhee was a force for the Bulldogs throughout the weekend. In the Black Singles draw, the sophomore defeated Western Michigan’s Emily Dudzik, 6-3, 6-3, in her first match and followed it up with an easy 6-2, 6-1 win over DePaul’s Anja Mihaldinec before triumphing over Moccia in the final.
“I was expecting to do really well, but I was focusing on one match at a time,” she said.