Looking to match the standard of play from an encouraging opening weekend, the Yale women’s tennis team traveled to the University of Pennsylvania for the Cissie Leary Invitational. After going 2–0–1 as a team in their first tournament, the Bulldogs did not fare as well this weekend, compiling an overall record of 13–16.
Unlike the Harvard Fall Classic last week, where the Elis played in a team format, this week’s tournament offered individual competition from a mix of 14 schools, including Columbia, Cornell, Penn and Princeton from the Ivy League. With three singles draws and two doubles draws, the tournament offered a wide variety of competition, a stark contrast to the much smaller three-school field Yale faced last weekend.
“It’s was a little bit easier to get up for the [team] format last week because it feels a little bit more real,” head coach Danielle McNamara said of the different tournament style. “But in terms of what we were trying to get out of the matches and the way we prepared for it, everything was the same.”
The team got off to a promising start with several players staying alive in their draws after the first day of competition. Elizabeth Zordani ’18 came into the tournament with a 5–1 record which quickly improved to 6-1 after her opening round singles match. Zordani wasted no time in dismantling her William and Mary opponent in two bagel sets, 6–0, 6–0, a rare feat at all levels of tennis.
Following Zordani into the second day of play on the singles side were Opala Dhingra ’20, Caroline Lynch ’17 and Amy Yang ’19. Yang and Lynch scored straight set victories while Dhingra won a decisive third set in her first round.
Yale faced a different fate in doubles play as all three teams in main draws bowed out on Friday. Yang and Zordani dropped a close 7–5 set to a St. John’s team in an opening round match in Doubles Flight A. Meanwhile the teams of Dhingra and Sherry Li ’17 along with Lynch and Sunday Swett ’18 both fell in the quarterfinals of Doubles Flight B.
The second day of play came with more mixed results, but a bright spot came in the form of Dhingra, a freshman who had just two collegiate matches under her belt before this tournament. Following a tough three-setter the day before, Dhingra once again found herself in a third set against Allegra Hanlon of Cornell who had a bye in the first round. Dhingra was able to pull through in the end, mustering a 6–0, 6–7 (7–4), 10–6 win against the fresher Hanlon.
“I got up pretty quickly, but then my opponent started playing well, so I had to step it up after the first set,” Dhingra said. “I had saved a match point the day before so I dealt with the pressure well. The game was pretty tight, but I managed to pull it out.”
Dhingra did go on to lose handily, 6–1, 6–1, in the next round to the eventual Singles Flight C winner, but she gained invaluable in-game experience over the course of her two Saturday matches.
The older Elis were not able to find the same success as Dhingra — Lynch, Yang and Zordani all fell in their main draw matches. The three lost in straight sets, although Lynch and Yang both pushed their opponents to at least one tiebreaker.
Still, the consolation draws left room for optimism on an otherwise disappointing Saturday. Li, Yang and Zordani stayed alive in their consolation brackets with Yang and Zordani teaming up for a 6–2 victory over a Temple team that had also fallen out of main draw play.
The players carried this momentum into Sunday, looking for some positives to take back home. Lynch and Zordani both won their final singles matches, with Lynch topping Penn State’s Devon McCluskey in two sets. Zordani had to work a little harder as she was pushed to a 6–3, 1–6, 10–5 victory over another Penn State opponent, but she was able to maintain her perfect tiebreaker record in the early season.
“I didn’t have my best day on Saturday because I was kind of all over the place,” Zordani said. “I figured out that I need to keep my energy up because it helps me stay aggressive. In my last match, I played with a lot of energy by moving my feet more and being more positive, and it really helped.”
In the end, Yale went 3-–4 overall on the final day of play, ending a challenging and competitive weekend of play.
According McNamara, a point of emphasis moving forward is consistency. The weekend exposed some mental lapses in big moments, showing the need for the players to focus more.
“Some things we’ve noticed are big swings in play,” McNamara said. “We’ll win two games then lose the next two. We’re just trying to compartmentalize things and not let a bad point or bad game linger.”
With the Cissie Leary Invitational behind them and goals for the upcoming tournament in mind, the Bulldogs look forward to defending their home turf in the Bulldog Invitational this weekend.