The Yale women’s tennis team played a lengthy nonconference season this year, competing on 30 different days over six months and amassing a 6–8 dual match record. But come Friday, only one such statistic will matter: 0–0, the record with which Yale begins its Ivy League season this weekend.
The Elis (6–8, 0–0 Ivy) will match up against their familiar Ivy League foes over the remaining four weeks of the season, attempting to improve upon their fifth-place finish in the Ancient Eight standings a season ago with a 3–4 conference record. The 2016 Ivy season will begin for Yale with a pair of home matches on Friday and Saturday against Penn and Princeton.
“[The Ivy League season] is the most exciting time of the year for us,” Elizabeth Zordani ’18 said. “Every day that we practice throughout the year is for these next few weeks.”
The Ivy League tennis season features seven matches packed into just 23 days and determines the Ivy League championship, given to the team or teams with the best conference record at the end of April. The Bulldogs won at least a share of the title in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons, but their performance declined in the following two, placing second in 2014 and tying for fifth last season.
This year, Yale got a chance to face two Ivy League foes at the ECAC Indoor Championships but lost to both Princeton, last year’s Ivy champion, and Columbia, the favorite to win the 2016 title. Still, the Bulldogs have winning momentum on their side as they begin Ivy play, finishing their nonconference schedule last weekend with a thrilling 4–3 victory against then-No. 54 Rice at home.
Contributions from deep in the lineup, including two doubles victories and a dramatic come-from-behind win for Courtney Amos ’16 in the No. 5 singles match, snapped a three-game losing streak and put the Bulldogs in the win column for the start of conference play.
“Each week we have come out stronger and hungrier to win,” Sunday Swett ’18 said. “That win [against Rice] is going to give us the positive and exciting momentum we need as we enter into Ivies.”
The Bulldogs’ first matchup of the season, against Penn (7–6, 0–1), is a historically favorable one. Yale has bested the Quakers in the first weekend of Ivy play each of the last eight years and dropped just three sets in the teams’ last meeting, cruising to a 7–0 victory in the 2015 opener.
Despite an emphatic win beginning their season, the Bulldogs nevertheless found themselves tied with Penn in the bottom half of the final standings at the end of the year.
“Penn is going to be a tough match for us because they’ve improved a lot this year,” Zordani said. “This match is important for us because it will set the tone for the rest of the season.”
The Elis will round out their home weekend hosting Princeton (9–7, 1–0) on Saturday. The Tigers downed Yale 5–2 in its 2015 opening weekend en route to an Ivy-best 6–1 record and the program’s 12th conference title. In the teams’ most recent meeting in February, during the consolation final of the ECAC Championship, the Tigers won by a match score of 4–0.
Princeton enters the 2016 season relying on a balanced attack of underclassmen and upperclassmen contributors, with members of each class winning matches in the team’s 5–2 win over Penn in its Ivy opener last weekend. The Tigers represent some of the stiffest Ivy competition that Yale will face this year, and the Bulldogs will need to be focused and prepared to start their season strong.
“Women’s tennis in the Ivy League has become really competitive in the last few years,” Caroline Lynch ’17 said. “Every weekend we’ll face tough matches and strong opponents. We’re going to take it one match at a time and focus on the things we can control.”
Yale will begin play against Penn at 1 p.m. on Friday and against Princeton at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.