Last weekend, the Yale women’s tennis team (3–3, 0–0 Ivy) called Alabama ‘home sweet home’ as it traveled down to compete in the 65th annual Blue Gray National Tennis Classic. Despite a good effort, the Elis fell against Texas Tech 4–1 and lost to Illinois 4–3 in the first two rounds of the tournament, before finishing strong with a 4–2 win against Tulane.
“It was great to play such a high level of competition,” said captain Annie Sullivan ’14. “We were really tested to play our best. I think at times, everyone played and competed well but we definitely saw where we were weaker than other teams and what we need to improve on. We are glad we have more opportunities coming up to get back to practice and work to improve in our next competition.”
In the first round of the event, the Elis were matched up against No. 21 Texas Tech. The Masked Riders (9–3, 0–0 Big 12) won the doubles’ point to begin the match, despite a win from Courtney Amos ’16 and Sullivan, who dispatched their opponents 6–2.
In singles competition, the Bulldogs fell behind their higher-ranked opponents. Madeleine Hamilton ’16 won her match 7–6, 6–2, but Amos, Ree Ree Li ’16 and Sherry Li ’17 were not as successful, each losing in two sets.
“[Texas Tech] just came out ready to play and we didn’t necessarily match that level,” Ree Ree Li said. “I struggled in my match and I realized there were a lot of things I needed to work on. As a team we came out thinking that we really needed to raise our level of competitiveness for the future.”
Sullivan, who won her first set 7–5, and Hanna Yu ’15 who was leading in her second 4–3, were unable to finish their matches due to rain delays. But since Texas Tech won the doubles tiebreaker at the beginning, the overall match was scored in their favor.
On Saturday Yale took on Illinois, which was coming off of a 4–0 loss against No. 14 Alabama. The Illinios (6–4, 0–0 Big 10) put pressure on the Elis early by winning the doubles point.
Motivated by her first-round loss, Ree Ree Li bounced back against Illinois, dispatching her opponent without dropping a single point. Hamilton lost a competitive three-set match, while Yu and Amos were both dropped in two sets. Sullivan posted an incredible comeback victory to keep her team’s chances alive, winning in three sets after losing the first one 6–0. But even after Sherry Li came out on top (7–5, 6–2), the Elis fell to the Illini in nail-biting fashion by a final score of 4–3.
“Texas Tech was a tough loss, but I think Illinois was the toughest because we were in it,” Ree Ree Li said. “Every court had an opportunity to win their match but that didn’t happen. Every girl was fighting. I think, coming out of that match, it showed us that we needed to change our way of approaching matches.”
The Elis entered the final round of the tournament against Tulane (3–8, 1–0 C-USA) with renewed motivation. Due to rain delays, the doubles matchups were postponed and the round instead began with singles. Sherry Li and Amos dispatched their opponents without much difficulty, each winning in their second set 6–1. But Tulane got the best of Hamilton and Ree Ree Li, outlasting them in competitive third sets. Hamilton dropped the final set 13–11, while Ree Ree Li fell 11–9. Yu and Sullivan each turned in two-set victories to put the team over the top and secure a 4–2 win, Yale’s first victory of the tournament.
Conference play will not begin until after spring break. In the meantime, the Bulldogs will take every opportunity to improve their level of play and prepare for their Ivy League opponents.
“We’re very, very lucky with this schedule that we have,” Ree Ree Li said. “The Ivy League conference has actually gotten a lot stronger throughout the years so playing really tough competition is good because we’re learning more about ourselves individually and as a team. These matches, especially these tough losses, are great motivating factors for us to continue working hard on the areas of our games that need improvement.”
The Elis will continue their nonconference schedule at Texas this Sunday.