At 3-0 in the Ivies, the women’s tennis team had better be prepared for high-pressure situations.
Over the weekend at home in the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, the Yale women’s tennis team (6-8, 3-0 Ivy) fought to victories over Penn (5-6. 2-1), 4-3, on Friday and Princeton (8-8, 1-2), 5-2, on Saturday, securing their fourth-straight win and propelling them to No. 1 in the Ivy League.
With their families in attendance for the team’s parents’ weekend and glittered “Y” tattoos stuck to their biceps, the Elis found the confidence to prove they were the tougher team.
Captain Lilian Nguyen ’09 said the skill level of the entire league has been raised.
“It really just comes down to fight,” she said.
Head coach Danielle Lund said after the matches that the wins were crucial for the Elis’ championship goals. Last year, the Bulldogs were undefeated leading into their matchup with the Quakers before ultimately falling in the championship game. Penn was the Ivy favorite this year, Lund said.
The Bulldogs swept the doubles matches against Penn, with Lauren Ritz ’11 and Lindsay Clark ’11 rallying to a fast 8-2 victory at the No. 2 spot.
“To sweep Penn in doubles,” Nguyen said, “that’s huge.”
Lund said doubles play was crucial in the match, citing a statistic that, 80 percent of the time, the team that wins the doubles point will go on to win the match.
“It’s about smart play — not reacting, but pro-acting,” she said.
In singles, Janet Kim ’09 was the first to finish, defeating Penn’s Ekaterina Kosminskya, 6-4, 6-2, and avenging her loss last year to the then-undefeated Kosminskya.
Jessica Rhee ’10 lost at No. 2, 6-3, 6-3, and Clark dropped a 6-1, 6-4 decision to her opponent at No. 3.
Sarah Lederhandler ’10, still easing back into play after injury, won in a hard-fought match played from feet behind the baseline. After splitting sets, Lederhander was down 4-5 in the third set but would hold serve twice for the victory, winning 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
Friday’s match came down to the wire, tied at 3-3 overall with just the No. 6 match of Lauren Ritz ’11 still in play.
Lund commended the freshman’s grace under pressure: Ritz won in a nail-biter that ended in a tiebreaker, 7-5, 7-6.
“It’s unusual to see so many 4-3 matches,” Lund said, “but it’s great. It’s absolutely a matter of toughness — mentally and physically.”
Riding the momentum from their win over Penn, the Bulldogs came out strong against Princeton on Saturday afternoon.
Again taking the doubles point, the Bulldogs posted wins at the Nos. 1 and 2 positions. Lindsey Dashiell ’08 and Stevi Petrelli ’11 lost in a narrow 9-7 decision at No. 3.
Again at No. 1 singles, Kim defeated an opponent to whom she had lost last year, showing little emotion as she fought back from 0-40 at 6-5 in the second set to prevent a tiebreaker. She topped No. 83 Melissa Saiontz, 6-4, 7-5.
“Janet really buckles down for Ivies,” Nguyen said. “She steps it up to another level.”
At No. 2, Rhee fought through a three-setter against the Tigers’ Ivana King. Down 0-5 in the third, it would prove a steep climb for the Eli to pull off a win. Rhee lost, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0.
Clark lost at No. 3, 6-3, 6-1, but at No. 4, Lederhandler won decisively in straight sets, 6-4, 6-0.
With two matches left in play, Yale would have to take just one of them to clinch the match. But the Bulldogs would close out the match with dual straight-set wins by freshmen Ritz and Petrelli.
Ritz won at the No. 6 spot, 6-1, 6-2, and Petrelli played a high-energy match, pummeling swinging volleys to win 6-4, 6-1 at No. 5.
Cheering from the sidelines both days, Silia DeFilippis ’11 said she was proud that the team’s hard work was paying off, but that the Bulldogs are keeping the remainder of the Ivy season in perspective.
“While we are thrilled to be 3-0 in the Ivies, there are still four more tough matches to be played,” she said. “Nothing is going to be handed over to us without a fight.”