Having earned an ITA ranking for the first time all season after its upset win over then-No.33 Columbia on April 9, the No. 69 Yale women’s tennis team entered this past weekend in search of its third upset of the conference season as it faced No. 58 Harvard and No. 54 Dartmouth.
However, the Bulldogs’ two opponents proved insurmountable. Yale (8–12, 2–4 Ivy) saw its losing streak swell to three games with a 6–1 loss to the Crimson (12–10, 2–4) and a narrow 4–3 defeat at the hands of the Big Green (12–6, 3–3). The pair of defeats pushed Yale into a three-way tie for last in the Ancient Eight, denying the Bulldogs a top-half conference finish and a chance at the Ivy championship for the second consecutive season after a 14-year streak of finishing among the four best schools.
“This weekend was definitely a challenge for us because Harvard played really well and Dartmouth was solid,” Elizabeth Zordani ’18 said. “We were able to recover after a tough loss from Harvard by having a close match with Dartmouth, but we weren’t able to get that extra match in singles to change the 3–4 loss to a 4–3 win.”
Hosting Harvard in their first outdoor spring action at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, the Bulldogs battled in close doubles competition before the Crimson seized the point on wins in the No. 1 and No. 2 matches. Harvard’s 7–5 win over Madeleine Hamilton ’16 and Tina Jiang ’17, in which the Bulldogs squandered several late deuce points, clinched the doubles for the Crimson, snapping Yale’s three-match streak of securing the doubles point.
Despite its 0–7 last-place finish in the Ivy League last season — compared to Yale’s 3–4 mark — and an unspectacular 1–3 mark entering the weekend, the Crimson overpowered the Bulldogs in the singles matches. Only Hamilton and Amy Yang ’19 were able to notch first-set wins against a stingy Harvard lineup, with Hamilton the lone Bulldog to emerge victorious on the day in a 6–4, 6–4 win in the No. 1 match. A 6–1, 6–0 victory over captain Ree Ree Li ’16 and a 6–2, 6–2 win over Sherry Li ’17 put Harvard quickly ahead 3–1 overall, with the final shot of the Crimson’s 6–3, 6–3 defeat of Jiang in the No. 2 matchup glancing off the top of the net before slowly dribbling in front of a helpless Jiang to knock the Bulldogs out of contention.
With stiff competition remaining on the weekend, the Bulldogs pressed reset in preparation of their bus ride to Hanover the following day.
“The doubles point is especially important and crucial in the Ivy League, so we’ll work to be ready from the beginning on Sunday,” assistant coach Karina Kedzo said following the loss to Harvard.
Yale’s players heeded their coach’s call against the Big Green, winning in the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles matches to win the doubles point. The duo of Sherry Li and Valerie Shklover ’18 earned its second doubles victory of the weekend, outlasting Dartmouth’s Jacqueline Crawford and Lexxi Kiven 7-–5 to clinch the point.
As has been an unfortunate theme this season for the Bulldogs, Yale started slow in singles play, with Dartmouth taking five of six opening sets. Zordani, making her first Ivy appearance after a shuffling of the Yale lineup, was the lone first-set victor with a 7–6 win to start the No. 6 match. After losing her first set 6–0, Ree Ree Li battled back in the No. 2 match, grinding out a 0–6, 7–6(3), 5–4(8) win over Dartmouth’s Katherine Yau. The captain’s victory joined Zordani’s 7–6, 2–6, 10–4 win as the only Yale singles successes on the day, as the Big Green won straight-set decisions in the remaining four singles matches to overcome its doubles deficit.
Dartmouth represented the ninth-consecutive ranked opponent for the Bulldogs. Despite coming away from the weekend winless, the Bulldogs highlighted their mental toughness against the Big Green, especially after the lopsided defeat to Harvard.
“I think that we went in with the mentality to take every opportunity we had,” Ree Ree Li said. “I think that mentality helped us make the match closer, and hopefully will bring us to a win this weekend.”
Yale will round out its season on Saturday at home against Brown, with a chance to earn its third conference win of the season on Senior Day.