After nearly three months of offseason training, the Yale men’s and women’s tennis teams are within two days of their first official matches in 2015. And with just four seniors lost to graduation across the two teams last season, both squads head into the spring with high expectations.
The Eli men, looking to rebound from a 1–6 conference record last season, will first test their talents in three home matches against Colgate, Monmouth and Buffalo this weekend. The women’s team, guided by two new coaches and entering the season ranked No. 48 in the nation, is headed to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a four-team tournament with Michigan, Tulsa and Utah.
“We’ve all been training really hard and working on our games,” women’s player Courtney Amos ’16 said. “The first week back at practice has been really good, and I think we’re all playing well and definitely ready for some competition.”
Though both teams compete in tournaments throughout September and October each year, the spring semester, which includes ECAC championships in February and the Ivy League season in April, is the major part of Yale’s schedule.
The women’s team will be looking for redemption in the Ivy stretch after missing out on a conference championship because of a 4–3 loss to Princeton last season. Since then, Yale has reinforced its roster by adding four new freshmen and graduating just a single senior, former captain Annie Sullivan ’14, from last year’s squad.
Many of those freshmen could be immediate contributors to the team, as all four of them — three five-star recruits and one walk-on — got time on the starting ladder in the fall. Captain Hanna Yu ’15 said that the coaches will not establish any lineups for the spring until they see more of what each freshman can do.
“They’re a great asset to the team, not just playing-wise but also helping the team environment,” Yu said, “We’re always known for being a loud team, for bringing as much heart as we can every day.”
Yu, who was named first team all-Ivy last season with a 24–6 individual record, said that the team has its eyes set on two goals: winning an Ivy League championship and improving on a No. 48 ranking that she feels is not representative of the Bulldogs’ true potential.
Yale will pursue those goals under completely new leadership, as both members of the women’s tennis coaching staff were replaced for this season. Taka Bertrand has taken over the head coaching role after former head coach Danielle McNamara stepped down last May, while Matej Zlatkovic has taken over for Kirsten Flower as assistant coach.
“It was a little hard to adjust at first, having two completely new coaches and having four freshmen,” Yu said. “Now, we definitely all feel comfortable with the coaches. It’s a different dynamic from in years past, and we try to embrace what we have. We’re lucky to have the coaches that we have.”
The men’s team hopes to recover from a more disappointing year, as the Elis went 1–6 in the 2014 conference season. Thirteen dual matches and the ECAC Championships remain until the Ivy season starts, and Daniel Faierman ’15 said that these early matches are the main focus until April.
The Bulldog men did get a chance to test themselves against an Ivy opponent this past Monday, as those who were healthy played in a preseason scrimmage against Brown. Yale won 11 of the 21 matches in total, but Faierman noted that these results are not at all conclusive because of the formatting of the scrimmage.
“Our main goal [in the beginning of the season] is to improve as much as possible before Ivies,” Faierman said. “We’d also like to get inside the top 75 nationally.”
Faierman was in his sophomore season the last time the Bulldogs finished in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association top 75. Seven Yale players have graduated since then, making it up to seniors Faierman, captain Zachary Krumholz ’15 and Matt Saiontz ’15 to lead this year’s title pursuit.
Much of the top talent on the men’s team comes from younger classes, however, giving the Elis an encouraging outlook on the future. In the Elis’ final tournament of the fall, the Connecticut State Championships, Tyler Lu ’17 took home his second straight singles crown with a win over teammate Ziqi Wang ’18. Faierman joined the two in the final four of the tournament, and he and Lu also emerged victorious in the doubles final.
Both squads will kick off their 2015 seasons on Saturday. None of the men’s team’s opponents for this weekend are currently ranked, while the women’s team will be playing against three teams that are all ranked higher than the Elis’ No. 48 spot.