The Yale women’s tennis team struggled against Ivy League competitors in this weekend’s ECAC Championships, but viewed it as a valuable learning experience for the spring season, when these teams will all meet again.
The ECACs, hosted by Dartmouth, took place over three days and consisted of all Ivy schools excluding Penn. Yale, originally seeded fifth amongst the seven teams in attendance, competed against Columbia and Princeton. Friday saw Yale, ranked No. 70 in Division I, fall to No. 58 Columbia 4–1 before being defeated 4–0 by No. 43 Princeton on Sunday after not competing on Saturday.
Columbia, which defeated the Bulldogs on the first day, went on to win the championship over Harvard while Yale finished the weekend in sixth place. According to team captain Ree Ree Li ’16, given the ECACs fall fairly early in the tennis season, they act as a “preview” for the competition Yale will face during Ivy play in April.
“The ECAC Championships is always a tough weekend as we compete against some very strong teams,” Carolyn Lynch ’17 said. “Obviously we didn’t have the outcome we wanted, but it only motivates us to work harder and smarter in order to achieve our goals this season.”
Friday’s action began with the doubles matches, when two of Yale’s three pairs were defeated to secure Columbia the doubles’ point and open up a 1–0 Lion advantage. Tina Jiang ’17 and Madeleine Hamilton ’16 played a close game, which nearly resulted in a tiebreaker: The set ended at 6–5, but was unfinished as the tournament was being played under “clinch-clinch” rules.
Under this format, all gameplay stops when one team claims the four out of seven points possible, securing a victory regardless of how the other sets conclude.
Facing a 1–0 deficit after the doubles competition, all but one singles match ended in favor of Columbia, with Valerie Shklover ’18 being the lone Yale player to win a match, as she won both sets 6–0. Meanwhile, Hamilton fought back after losing her first set, proceeding to take the second set from Columbia’s Rima Asatrian. However, the match was left unfinished, with the third set being interrupted at 1–0 in favor of Asatrian, as Columbia had already sealed its victory.
After losing her first set 7–5, Li made a comeback in the second set after breaking her opponent to go up 3–1. But Li’s match was also left unfinished, due to the Lions already clinching the win, before she could earn a victory.
“Our team’s performance was not where it could have been, but it’s getting better,” Shklover said. “We saw drastic improvements between Friday and Sunday.”
On Sunday, only singles games were contested in the fifth-place deciding match against Princeton. Li found herself ahead in the third set against her Princeton opponent with a 3–2 advantage in the final set, but play did not conclude as Yale dropped four matches by that point. Though Shklover and Hamilton both ultimately lost their own matches in two sets, each featured a tiebreaker. Elizabeth Zordani ’18 lost her tiebreaker in the first set, but won the second 6–2 to force a decisive third set. Facing a 4–0 deficit, Zordani had the same fate as Li, as play was halted.
According to Lynch, Yale did not adjust its game plan early enough in Friday’s pairing with Columbia, which culminated in the defeat. Though Sunday’s match saw tactical improvements, Lynch said they failed to capitalize on opportunities against the Tigers.
Shklover added that the team was brought together by the winless weekend, and that it should serve as motivation for April’s conference season.
“The weekend was a wake-up call for us,” Li said. “As much as we don’t like losing — that’s something no competitor enjoys — it showed us how we need to, every single day, go out there, train really hard and compete really hard, so that when April rolls around we are prepared and ready to give ourselves a chance to win.”
The team will play at home on Friday against Syracuse, before taking on Boston University this Saturday.