Graham Harboe

Coming off a pair of last-place Ivy campaigns last year, both the Yale men’s and women’s tennis teams enter their fall seasons in search of early success. The Bulldog squads gathered momentum this past weekend in a trio of tournaments across three states.

The men’s team experienced an unusual weekend, as it split players between two tournaments. Four Eli veterans represented the team in the Ivy Plus Invitational at Princeton, while the remaining Bulldog contingent took two of the three titles at the Connecticut State Championships in New Haven. Meanwhile, the women’s team ventured to Cambridge to face Boston College, Delaware and archrival Harvard in the Harvard Fall Invitational, posting a 2–0–1 record in three head-to-head matchups.

“[We were] interested in seeing how [the team] responded to real competition,” women’s head coach Danielle McNamara said. “The focus was playing disciplined tennis, being stingy with points, and competing hard from start to finish.”

Spurred on by McNamara’s return to Yale after two years spent coaching at Texas, the Bulldogs were impressive in their three bouts over the weekend, tallying a record of 0.500 or better against each opponent.

Though the Elis entered competition with less than three weeks of practice under their belts, Yale proved itself in its season’s opening action.

The Bulldogs took the court for the first time against Boston College, losing two of three doubles matches before rebounding with a 4–3 showing in their seven singles matchups. The Elis’ spark against the Eagles came from the bottom of their lineup, with Elizabeth Zordani ’18, Valerie Shklover ’18 and Amy Yang ’19 each earning three-set wins in the third, fourth and fifth singles matches.

Facing the Crimson the following day, Yale picked up its first win of the season in convincing fashion. Led by Zordani and captain Tina Jiang ’17, who went undefeated in three doubles matches over the weekend, the Elis swept its four doubles sets with Harvard before triumphing 5–2 in singles play. Jiang added to her doubles win with one of the team’s five singles victories, defeating longtime friend and Crimson senior June Lee in a  6–4, 6–2 sweep.

The Yale women rounded out their debut weekend with a resounding win over Delaware. The Bulldogs lost just one singles and one doubles match against the Blue Hens, while four members of the team –— Jiang, Zordani, Sherry Li ’17 and Caroline Lynch ’17 — recorded sweeps in their singles matchups.

Lynch emerged as one of the highlight players from the weekend, going undefeated in singles play without dropping a set in three matches.

“I was working on playing aggressively, having a high first-serve percentage, getting the ball to my forehand and coming to the net,” Lynch said. “I was focused on executing that game plan throughout the weekend, and played well by going back to the basics.”

On the men’s side, the Bulldogs displayed strength from both their veterans and newcomers in competitions on the road and at home.

Captain Tyler Lu ’17, still returning to top form after a wrist injury sidelined him for nearly all of last season, showed signs of progress at the Ivy Plus Invitational by beating Wisconsin’s Joe Dodridge 6–4, 7–6 (7–5) to start the weekend. Lu’s next match against South Carolina’s Gabriel Friedrich, ranked No. 30 in the ITA men’s singles standings, did not yield the same result, as Lu fell in straight sets by a lopsided 6–2, 6–1 margin. The Yale captain rebounded by defeating Princeton’s No. 1 player, Diego Vives, by a 6–3, 6–0 final in a consolation round. 

The doubles duo of Stefan Doehler ’18 and Ziqi Wang ’18 also made their mark on the weekend in Princeton, winning a pair of doubles matches against opponents from VCU and St. John’s before falling in the finals of their bracket.

Back at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center in New Haven, a group of young Bulldogs dominated competition at the Connecticut State Championship. Andrew Heller ’20 strung together five consecutive wins to top the A-singles bracket, defeating teammates Dylan King ’20 and Ryan Cheng ’20 in the quarterfinals and finals, respectively. Heller and Cheng also teamed up in the doubles bracket to take down fellow Elis Photos Photiades ’17 and Charlie Adams ’18 in an all-Yale semifinal. The freshman pair went on to defeat Fairfield’s Brad Orban and Tyler Shibles to take home the doubles title.

“I was just trying to take it one match at a time,” Heller said. “I certainly wasn’t expecting anything like this so early in the season. I played a lot of close matches and was able to get used to high pressure situations.”

Next week, Lu and King will represent the Bulldog men’s team at the ITA Men’s All-American Championships in Oklahoma while the rest of the team will enjoy an off week. For the women, Madison Battaglia ’20 will compete at the ITA Women’s All-American Championships in California, while the rest of the Elis will travel to Penn for the Cissie Leary Invitational tournament.