After mixed results during the first two days of competition, the Yale women’s tennis team found a way to finish strong at the 19th annual Cissie Leary Invitational this past weekend. Four of the five Bulldogs who competed on Sunday secured wins in the consolation bracket, and the tournament saw two Eli players reaching the quarterfinals of their respective draws.
The University of Pennsylvania, which hosted the 10-team tournament, walked away with titles in both the A and B singles draws. Captain Ree Ree Li ’16, Sherry Li ’17 and Elizabeth Zordani ’18 all advanced to at least the second round in the A singles draw, with Ree Ree Li as the sole Eli to advance to the quarterfinals of the A draw. In the B singles draw, Sonal Shrivastava ’19 matched her captain’s performance, reaching the quarterfinals in her first collegiate outing.
“In general, we are moving in the right direction,” interim head coach Matej Zlatkovic said. “There are still some things that we have to work on this week and in following weeks, but we’ve improved tremendously.”
In the A singles draw, Ree Ree Li and Sherry Li both advanced to the Round of 16 after winning in two sets. Zordani’s match stretched to a tiebreaking set, which the Eli sophomore won 10–5. Zordani played her next match to a tiebreaker but did not prevail the second time around, falling 10–6 to a player from Penn.
Though Sherry Li and Zordani both dropped to the consolation bracket after two rounds, Ree Ree Li moved on to the quarterfinals after dispatching a Princeton opponent in another two sets. She did not move to the semifinals, as a St. John’s challenger took her down, 6–0, 6–2, and the captain was also unable to last more than two sets against a Columbia opponent in her consolation match.
Sherry Li and Zordani, meanwhile, won their Sunday consolation matches. Zordani’s match was a straightforward 6–3, 6–3 victory, but Li’s required a tougher battle. After dropping the first set, Li began her second with a 5–1 deficit, just one game away from losing the match. She rebounded to win six straight games, taking the set and carrying that momentum into a 10–6 tiebreaker victory to take the match.
“It was incredible, because she stayed calm throughout the entire time,” Ree Ree Li said. “Even when she was down 5–1, she was still working the points, sticking to her strategy. She was really brave in the way that she stepped up on the big points and wasn’t scared to go after her shots.”
Notching an early win in the B singles draw, Shrivastava was one of two Bulldog freshmen to come out well on the first day, as Caroline Amos ’19 was also victorious in her first match of the draw. The two freshmen both won their opening matches in two sets, with Amos winning a tiebreaker in her first set but putting her Drexel opponent away 6–1 in the second set. Amos dropped her second-round match to a St. John’s player in two sets, but Shrivastava, after felling her Drexel opponent 6–1, 6–2 in the opening round, moved on the quarterfinals with another two-set win, 6–3, 6–4, over a St. John’s foe. With eight players then remaining in the draw, Shrivastava lost in two sets to end Yale’s chances at a title in the B singles draw.
While fellow B draw competitors Caroline Lynch ’17 and Sunday Swett ’18 were unable to advance past the first round of play, both won their consolation matches the following Sunday. Swett had a straightforward 6–4, 6–3 win while Lynch held off a late comeback by her opponent to take the match 6–2, 7–5.
Though Zlatkovic was pleased overall with Yale’s performance in singles, he said that the Elis’ doubles play could have be improved. The four doubles squads, two in each of the A and B draws, combined for a 3–6 record, and none could not advance past the final eight of 16 teams in each draw.
“In doubles, we played well the first round but the second round was a little tougher,” Zlatkovic said. “I think there is room for improvement, and that’s what we’ll do this week.”
There were two main differences between this Cissie Leary Invitational and its 2014 iteration, both of which impacted the players involved. The first was unexpected: rainy weather conditions forced the tournament to move to Penn’s indoor courts. Li said despite the fact that Penn’s indoor courts are faster than Yale’s, the team needed only 20 minutes to adjust.
The second change, however, will remain a factor throughout the rest of the season. The NCAA has changed scoring rules for Division I teams in the 2015–16 season, requiring that all men’s and women’s matches score using the no-ad scoring system, which requires just a one-point advantage, rather than two points, to win a game. Li said she thought this change was a part of an effort by sport officials to raise the popularity of the sport by shortening the length of matches.
“The no-ad scoring is definitely something that we’re adjusting to,” Li said. “That definitely changes the way you play those points. It changes the way you think about the match overall, because there’s less time [in the match].”
The Bulldogs host their next tournament, the Yale Invitational, this weekend. Play begins on Friday, Oct. 9, and concludes the following Sunday.