Hard work paid off for the women’s tennis team as it won both its weekend matches with nearly flawless performances.
The No. 46 Bulldogs (14–5, 3–1 Ivy) focused on doubles play during practices last week, and players said their doubles play on the road was key to both their 7–0 victory against Cornell (11–9, 1–4) Friday and their 6–1 win over Columbia (9–12, 0–5) the following day.
“It’s probably some of the best doubles I’ve seen us play all year,” head coach Danielle McNamara said following the weekend’s matches. “We’ve been working on doubles all season, but sometimes it take a little while for people to learn certain techniques, so maybe it’s just starting to click.”
The Elis won all six of their doubles matches over the weekend, including two 8–0 shutouts. The duo of Stevi Petrelli ’11 and Elizabeth Epstein ’13 blanked Cornell, while Vicky Brook ’12 and Lindsay Clark ’11 kept Columbia’s No.1 doubles pair from earning a point.
“We definitely focused a lot on doubles and hitting to the right targets this week, and it really paid off, especially against Columbia,” Brook said. “It was a really, really good day of doubles and it felt good.”
McNamara said the team worked on several drills in practices last week that reinforced the basics of doubles play. Performing well on the first three shots — the serve, the return and the first volley — gives players a much better chance of winning the point, she said. The Bulldogs also worked on specific strategies for covering lob shots.
In addition to helping them win doubles matches, the team’s preparation allowed them remain focused in difficult matches, players said. While Yale won most of the weekend’s matches in straight sets, both captain Sarah Lederhandler ’10 and Stephanie Kent ’12 were able to come back after losing their first sets and ultimately win their matches.
“I think what helped me pull both matches out was confidence in our preparation,” Kent said. “We’ve been training so hard in the past week that I knew I’d been in pressure situations before.”
Kent also said the matches this weekend were critical for the team’s outlook for the rest of Ivy matches on its schedule.
“We’re a little bit more optimistic about the season,” Kent said. “We were really hoping to get those two under our belts, so we’re happy.”
The Elis will play one more road match this season, on Friday against No. 48 Dartmouth, before returning home to the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center on Sunday to take on rival No. 53 Harvard at noon.
Because the team excelled in doubles over the weekend, the Elis will spend more time fine-tuning singles play at this week’s practices, McNamara said. The coach asked her players to e-mail her specific singles skills on which each of them want to focus.
Still, players emphasized that mental preparation for a match can be just as important as drills and practice.
“This weekend everyone had fun out there, which is what we promised ourselves after our loss against Princeton,” Brook said. “If we are able to bring that to our matches against Dartmouth and Harvard, then we should be able to play some of our best tennis.”