The Yale women’s tennis team closed its fall season in Evanston, Illinois this past weekend, travelling the farthest the team has gone all season to compete in the Wildcat Fall Duals Cup.
An undefeated doubles performance by Carol Finke ’18 and Caroline Lynch ’17 — who had three straight victories in the three-day event — highlighted a weekend in which the Bulldogs went 5–12 overall in singles matches and 5–5 in doubles. Playing against three opponents that were NCAA Tournament contenders last spring, Yale fell 6–1 to the hosting Northwestern, defeated DePaul 4–3 and lost 4–3 to Oklahoma.
“I think we performed well overall,” captain Ree Ree Li ’16 said. “Our team improved each day. We competed hard and had really tough, close matches, and I believe that we’re on the right path.”
Nine of the 13 Elis flew to Northwestern for the culmination of their fall season. Five of these players had not competed since the Bulldog Invitational at the beginning of October, while the other four recently played in the USTA/ITA Regional Championship two weeks prior to the tournament in Illinois.
Despite going up against the steadfast confidence of three defending conference champions — including a Northwestern team that has won 17 consecutive Big Ten titles — Finke and Lynch were able to maintain a winning streak for their doubles pairing throughout the entire weekend. The pair rattled off wins of 6–3 over its Northwestern foe, 6–4 over DePaul and, in the weekend’s finale on Sunday, 6–3 over Oklahoma.
The performance occurred even though Finke and Lynch have never been paired together before the weekend. Lynch said that before performing at Northwestern, she had practiced with Finke just once.
“We just clicked,” Lynch said. “We are both playing really well right now, and I think a combination of smart strategy and good execution lead us to victories this weekend.”
Finke added that head coach Matej Zlatkovic has particularly focused on preparing the doubles teams this season, and that he devotes at least one practice session a week to doubles drills.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Finke added another win to her record in singles on Sunday, defeating a DePaul opponent 0–6, 6–3, 7–5 in dramatic comeback fashion. Madeline Hamilton ’16 also finished her tournament on a high note in the final day, gaining both a doubles victory alongside Li and a singles victory after two losses earlier in the weekend.
Li also tacked on a singles victory against DePaul on Saturday, the same day when her teammate Tina Jiang ’17 won both at No. 1 in singles and at No. 2 in doubles with Valerie Shklover ’18. Shklover rounded out the list of wins for Yale on Friday with a 6–1, 2–6, 6–4 victory in the final ladder slot against Northwestern.
“All of the matches this weekend were good,” Hamilton said. “We competed well as a team and had solid performances on many different courts over the course of the weekend. DePaul was particularly good because we picked up the team win.”
After dropping 12 of the 17 singles matches, Hamilton noted that stronger singles play, in addition to more optimal doubles pairings, could potentially contribute to success in the spring season.
Li added that improved strategy will be key for the Elis to improve their game.
“Our coach, Matej [Zlatkovic], has really emphasized belief,” Li said. “He has complete belief in us as a team, and we saw how competitive we were with these top, nationally ranked teams, but we just need to believe it. So that’s something else we are focusing on as a team.”
The Bulldogs will not compete again until Jan. 22, 2015 at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.