A year after failing to earn the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four seasons, the Yale women’s tennis team enters Ivy League play hungry for a championship. Ree Ree Li ’16 excelled in 2014’s conference season, going 6–1. She spoke with the News about her role with the team’s No. 1 doubles pair, the future of the team and how the Bulldogs are preparing for an Ancient Eight title.
Q: You’re part of the top doubles team with Madeleine Hamilton ’16. What are the biggest differences between doubles and singles play?
A: The biggest difference would be that with a partner, you have to ensure that your attitudes are in sync. In singles you’re focused on yourself, and if you’re angry, you can be angry with yourself. With doubles, a negative attitude will affect your partner. You have to be aware of your partner. But I love doubles. With doubles, you have someone there to rely on. It’s nice to be able to bond so closely with a teammate.
Q: You’re about to start Ivy League play for the spring. What is the team’s goal for this year?
A: The team goal is definitely that we want to win the Ivy [League], but the main thing we’re working on is to approach each match and really focus on what we can control in matches. [We want to] really support each other and compete to the best that we can. We don’t want to think too much about the game. That just distracts from working towards our goal.
Q: Taka Bertrand was named head coach in July 2014, so this is the team’s first season with her at the helm. What can you say about her?
A: It has definitely been a transition. Every year is very different. Each year we adjust to a new team. This year has been a tough year in the beginning in terms of results, but right now we are on our way forward and playing better and competing better than before.
Q: How has team chemistry evolved over the year, especially with all the travel you’ve done for tournaments?
A: Team chemistry is incredible. I love my teammates. We have four freshmen — that’s almost half our team. It was definitely [a lot of] getting to know each other in the beginning. I speak for everyone on the team [when I say] we’re all there for each other. If I needed any form of support, any of my teammates would be there. Team chemistry is one of the strongest aspects of our team. Even when we face higher ranked teams, they aren’t as loud in cheering and supporting each other. We’re hoping to use that toward our upcoming matches, using our bond to pull through tough moments because we’re playing for each other.
Q: Which freshmen have impressed you this season?
A: Honestly, all four of them have. Every single one of them has brought something new to the team. It’s definitely been a tough year, but they’ve come in here and didn’t complain at all and went to work. It’s definitely a tough transition from junior tennis to college tennis. They’ve been cheering the loudest [and] working the harder than everyone else on the team.
Q: After beating BU and Fairfield this weekend, you’re on a three-game winning streak. How does that momentum help the team? Do you think momentum exists in tennis?
A: We have a lot of confidence, and we want to carry this momentum through to Ivy season. But we are aware that we have to focus on each individual match. We’re hoping to use this to have a great start at Princeton, and then to fight and compete and do everything we can to end up with a win.
Q: Which upcoming match are you looking forward to and why?
A: I’m actually really looking forward to this weekend. I have never played at Penn or Princeton. I had hip surgery in the spring of my freshman year the day before the trip. I have never been able to play there. I’m really excited to see what the facilities are like, what the teams are like. It’s the start of our season. It’s definitely exciting to be out there competing with my best friends.