Hovering at a 0.500 conference record to start its season for a third consecutive year, the Yale women’s tennis team earned a statement victory over No. 33 Columbia on Saturday before coming down to earth against No. 71 Cornell the following day.
The Bulldogs (8–10, 2–2 Ivy) relied on the steady leadership of their upperclassmen throughout the weekend, as four of the five Eli upperclassmen in the lineup earned crucial wins against the Ivy League-leading Lions (14–5, 4–1 Ivy) in the 4–3 upset victory. Against Cornell (14–7, 3–2 Ivy) on Sunday, Yale again won the doubles point on the shoulders of three upperclassmen before ultimately falling to the Big Red 5–2 in Ithaca, New York.
“From our first match to now, we’ve established our team culture and have shown that hard work does pay off in the long run,” captain Ree Ree Li ’16 said. “As we’ve started to focus on the process more and less about the results, I think we’ve allowed ourselves to compete better. With that being said, though, I think there’s still so much potential for this team, and I believe that we can show that in the upcoming matches.”
The Elis kicked off competition against their highest-ranked conference rival, Columbia, which appeared to be the prohibitive favorite to win the Ivy League, with a convincing sweep of the three doubles matches. The duos of Madeline Hamilton ’16 and Tina Jiang ’17, and Li and Carol Finke ’18, earned identical 6–4 victories in the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles matches. Sherry Li ’16 and Valerie Shklover ’18 took a 5–3 lead in their own match, but were cut short when their teammates clinched the point on other courts.
Entering the singles competition with a 1–0 match lead, the Bulldogs kept pace with the Lions throughout the lineup, winning first sets in four of the six matches. A 6–2, 7–6(5) victory by Finke in the No. 6 match was complemented by a 6–2, 6–2 win by Jiang in the No. 2 match, who earned her second win of the afternoon against her former team; Jiang played for two seasons at Columbia before transferring to Yale for her junior campaign. But the highlight of the day came from the captain Ree Ree Li in the decisive No. 3 match: after losing the first set 6–0 to Columbia’s Star Makarome, the senior rebounded with consecutive 6–4 set wins to seize the match from the Lions in dramatic fashion.
“Beating Columbia was definitely an exciting match for us,” Elizabeth Zordani ’18 said. “We wanted to take the match away from them and played with a sense of urgency. [Ree Ree Li] played every point with a purpose which is [why] she was able to win those critical points in the third set.”
Following Saturday’s thriller in the Lion’s den, the Bulldogs struggled to replicate success against another ranked conference rival in Cornell. Despite its second doubles win of the weekend courtesy of Hamilton, Jiang, Sherry Li and Shklover, the Elis managed just one singles victory against the Big Red, with Sherry Li earning a 6–2, 4–6, 6–1 decision over Mariko Iinuma in the No. 3 singles match. Cornell swept the remaining five matches, including a 7–5, 6–4 win over Courtney Amos ’16 in the No. 5 singles match to clinch the victory.
“We had a great showing in doubles [against Cornell] but didn’t bring the same level of play to singles,” Sherry Li said. “There are different things each of us will be working on to prepare for our upcoming matches, and we look forward to more good completion for the rest of the season.”
With just three Ivy League matchups remaining on the schedule, the Bulldogs will face Harvard at home Friday before heading north to Dartmouth for their final road trip of the season. Yale’s current 2–2 Ivy record ranks fifth in the conference standings.