Last year was the first time in three years the Yale women’s tennis team did not claim the Ivy League championship. The combination of a new head coach, talented recruits and a strong core of upperclassmen will help the Bulldogs attempt to recapture the title this season.
The fall season, in which team members compete individually, begins this weekend when Yale travels to the University of Pennsylvania to compete at the Cissie Leary Invitational. During the spring season, the Bulldogs will compete as a team and begin looking toward another Ivy League title.
“One of our biggest goals is obviously to dominate the Ivy League and win another Ivy championship,” captain Hanna Yu ’15 said. “Before the Ivy season, we have the opportunity to play against a lot of high ranked teams all across the country. It’s really a blessing that we can get as many matches in before the Ivy League season.”
The team is working hard in order to have a successful fall season, one that is filled with many crucial tournaments for the Bulldogs. While much of it will be spent on the road, the team will be back home in early October to host the Bulldog Invitational, which draws players from schools such as Brown, Dartmouth, Rutgers and William & Mary. The ITA Northeast Regional tournament, which Yu referred to as the “most important tournament of the fall,” will also be held at Yale this year.
“Regionals is a big priority for us, as it is every fall. Especially now that we have it at home, we feel we can use the home court advantage to do well in this tournament,” Madeleine Hamilton ’16 said. “We will see a lot of the teams we play in the fall again in the spring. We need to come out on a strong note.”
So far, the season looks promising for the Bulldogs. Taka Bertrand, who played professionally on the WTA Tour, was named head coach in July, after Danielle McNamara stepped down from the position at the conclusion of last season. Bertrand has an impressive background in tennis, playing for Vanderbilt and later coaching at the University of Chicago and St. John’s.
The new coaching staff, however, is only one new aspect of the team. There are four freshman recruits hoping to contribute to the Bulldogs’ success this season. The class of 2018 includes Carol Finke ’18, Lauren Sapienza ’18, Valerie Shklover ’18 and Elizabeth Zordani ’18, all of whom emerged as accomplished athletes at the state and national levels during high school.
“So far, practices have been great and the energy that everyone brings to practice is awesome,” Zordani said. “Personally, I hope to be a positive and supportive member of the team. Other than that, I want our team to achieve its full potential and become highly ranked.”
Yu recognized the talent of the newest team members and also emphasized the values — including communication, selfless service and respect — they bring to the team.
In addition to the freshman class, the team has a strong core of upperclassmen that is ready for another season.
“All of the upperclassmen want to show the rest of the team what we work for and how we represent ourselves. We do that by being competitive in our matches and trying to do as well as possible,” Hamilton said.
The first step toward claiming another Ivy League title begins this weekend as the team opens its season in Philadelphia.