Building momentum from an impressive fall season, the women’s tennis team has gotten off to a quick start in its spring campaign, beating Delaware State 7–0 and Ole Miss 4–2 during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Mississippi on Jan. 27.

A significant part of the Bulldogs’ success has been the play of team captain Elizabeth Epstein ’13, the No. 42 ranked singles player in the country.

Last spring, the Elis enjoyed an incredibly successful season, making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to then-No. 5 Stanford.

But Epstein said they could have pushed further. Currently ranked No. 24 in the nation, the Bulldogs hope to win a third consecutive Ivy League title and advance further in the NCAA tournament than last year.

“Every season we try to push the program forward more and take it to new heights,” Epstein said. “This year, obviously, winning another Ivy League title is a big goal of ours. We’re also trying to make it to Sweet 16 in NCAAs and do something we’ve never done before.”

Epstein said it’s important for the Bulldogs to build up their ranking now to get a good draw when the NCAA tournament begins in May. She added Princeton always competes well against Yale in the Ivy League, and Columbia has great talent this year as well. To help reach their team goals, Epstein said that practices have featured much higher intensity than in years past.

“There’s a sense of urgency, and there’s a different sense when you step out on the court than in my previous years,” Epstein said. “I feel like, in contrast to other years, every practice has been good whereas it hasn’t been the case in past years.”

During her freshman year, the Bulldogs did not make the NCAA tournament, but in the next two years they won back-to-back Ivy League titles. She added that the team looks to play more against top-10 teams, and the athletes recruited during her four years have continued to get better and better.

Following a successful high school tennis career at the Parker School in Chicago, Ill., Epstein said she looked to Yale because of its great academics and athletics.

“There aren’t many schools in the country that excel at both,” Epstein said. “The team also definitely played a huge role in my decision to come here.”

Coming in as a freshman, Epstein said she was unsure of what to expect, and adjusting to the level of fitness was a challenge. Epstein said that fitness was definitely the biggest difference she noticed in transitioning from high school to college tennis.

“It took me a while to adjust to early-morning shuttle runs, as well as the weight workouts,” she said. “All the top collegiate players are fit and strong, so I have spent lots of time in the weight room getting stronger and more fit, and it has definitely paid off.”

Madeleine Hamilton ’16, who plays No. 1 singles for the Bulldogs, praised Epstein’s leadership style and organization, saying that Epstein is very encouraging and motivating at practice, which can be really helpful if teammates are having trouble.

“I think Elizabeth has done a really great job as captain,” head coach Danielle McNamara said. “She’s one of those people who is a pleasure to be around. She’s also always been such a great competitor and someone who is really clutch under pressure. That’s something that you can’t really teach.”

The Bulldogs take on Florida International today at home and will face Arkansas on Sunday.