This weekend, the No. 25 women’s tennis team (7-2 overall, 0-0 Ivy) underwent some growing pains. On the heels of an impressive 6-1 win over No. 59 College of William and Mary (2-7 overall, 0-1 CAA) on Saturday, Syracuse (8-4 overall, 3-1 Big East) took down the Bulldogs 4-3 on Sunday.
Against the College of William and Mary, the Elis began the match well. Despite No. 27 ranked duo Vicky Brook ’12 and Hanna Yu ’15 falling at No. 1, Yale took the doubles point for the eighth consecutive match to go ahead 1-0.
Going into singles play, the ship kept right on sailing, as the Elis dropped only one match. Yale head coach Danielle McNamara said that her team did a good job pulling away early.
“One of the things I thought we did well that we had made a priority was getting off to a good start in the singles after the doubles matches,” McNamara said. “Getting the 6-1 win over them was pretty solid.”
On Sunday, though, unranked Syracuse nipped the Bulldogs. Again, though, the Elis achieved the early edge by winning their ninth consecutive doubles point, 2-1. Yale’s No. 2 pair, No. 37 ranked Elizabeth Epstein ’13 and Annie Sullivan ’14, sealed the match’s opening point with an 8-5 win.
With the momentum firmly on the Elis’ side of the court, Yu put Yale up 2-0 with a 7-5, 6-2 straight-set win over Syracuse’s Maddie Kobelt at No. 2.
Blair Seideman ’14 gained her team’s third point with a routine 6-2, 6-3 undressing of Breanna Bachini at No. 3. Seideman said that she matched up well with Bachini.
“She hit everything a million miles an hour,” Seideman said. “She made a lot of winners but also made a ton of errors. If you’re strong enough from the back, then you can kind of grind her down.”
Just one point away from victory, the Bulldogs looked to either No. 5 Sullivan or No. 6 Amber Li ’15 to seal the deal. After Sullivan’s tight loss at No. 5 tied the match at 3-3, the outcome depended on Li’s match. After splitting the first two sets, Li and her Syracuse counterpart, Aleah Marrow, dueled in the third and deciding set. After Marrow went up 3-0, Li showed great resolve fighting back to take the lead briefly at 4-3. The two traded breaks until they arrived at a deciding tiebreaker.
“The tiebreaker wasn’t pretty tennis on my part,” Li said. “I got a little nervous. She just went for her shots more than I did and I played more defensively than she did.”
Yale’s loss was due to a combination of Syracuse’s aggressive play and its own lackluster preparation, team members said.
To compound the Elis’ lack of preparation, the Orange forced the issue, playing an aggressive brand of tennis including a heavy dosage of serve-and-volley play, team members explained. Syracuse rattled the Bulldogs.
“Every singles player came out firing on the Syracuse team,” captain Steph Kent ’12 said. “They came out energized and loud, and they had a lot of fans there supporting them.”
Despite this weekend’s split, Yale remains the class of the Ivy League. The team has no doubt that its loss to Syracuse will be the one and only wake-up call it requires.
“You can’t expect when you’re 25th in the country to get any easy matches,” McNamara said. “If we have to learn it this way, then so be it. We still have an awful lot of tennis left to play.”
Next weekend, the Bulldogs will host Stony Brook at home on Sunday, March 4 at 4 p.m.