While flurries swirled outside the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, the Yale women’s tennis team ignored the snow and came away with an impressive victory in its first home meet of the spring season. The Bulldogs defeated visiting Florida International University in a 4–2 decision on Monday.
The matchup came just two days after the team played for the ECAC Division I title in Ithaca, N.Y. These back-to-back competitions mark the first such occurrence of consecutive games this season, but according to the athletes, the team was ready.
“It was definitely tough, but we’ve been training hard,” Carol Finke ’18 said. “We put lots of emphasis on our fitness. We were able to transition and come out strong [on Monday]. It’s important that we could rely on the training we’ve done the entire year.”
Yale is ranked No. 61 in NCAA Division I women’s tennis by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, as of Feb. 10. The team sits 18 spots behind Ivy League foe Columbia, the highest-ranked Ancient Eight team, and nine places ahead of Brown.
The day started out well for the Bulldogs when Ree Ree Li ’16 and Valerie Shklover ’18 pulled out the team’s first victory in dominant fashion, winning 6–0.
“With the doubles point, since we were all playing at the same time, we saw that the two other teams were having close matches,” Li said. “Our biggest goal was to finish out and finish as quickly as possible.”
Shklover concurred, adding that getting the job done quickly improved the team’s confidence by guaranteeing a point.
Winning the match in straight sets, Li said, was an especially good feeling because she and Shklover did not finish their match against Cornell. Li and Shklover came out of Ithaca determined to improve on their mistakes, according to Li, making the victory that much sweeter.
However, even with the early doubles victory, Yale’s other pairs were unable to close out their matches, giving FIU the match’s point for doubles play.
Yale’s singles players fared better than the doubles pairs. Finke won her singles match against FIU’s Nerma Caluk 6–2, 6–1, followed by Shklover’s 6–1, 6–3 victory.
But the Golden Panthers came back to tie the match, with FIU’s Carlotta Orlando notching her seventh consecutive singles victory with a 6–2, 6–2 win over Li.
Despite the setback, the Elis responded, with Caroline Lynch ’17 and Sherry Li ’17 winning their respective singles matches. Li’s victory secured Yale the match, as the No. 4 singles player notched the Bulldogs their fourth and final point, ending the match before captain Hanna Yu ’15 could finish her game.
The team now gets 10 days off as it travels to Alabama to compete in the Blue-Gray Invitational in Montgomery on Feb. 19.
The Blue-Gray Invitational is a team favorite, according to Ree Ree Li, because the team gets to stay with host families and mingle with other teams. Often, the players see old friends from junior tennis there, she said.
But the team is looking beyond Alabama.
“I think [the Blue-Gray Invitational will] be another tournament with great competition,” Finke said. “Our main goal is the Ivies this season. We’re really embracing the competition because all the Ivies are really tough this year. We’ll just take it one match at a time.”
Li agreed, adding that she thinks the quality of Ivy League tennis has improved over the last few years, citing the efforts of the coaches and the recruitment process. Seven of the eight Ivy League schools are ranked by the ITA.
“Ivy League tennis is not that different from [junior tennis],” Shklover said. “The [Ivy] programs have definitely gotten stronger.”
The team’s Ivy League season begins on April 3, when the Bulldogs travel to take on Penn.