After starting the season with two road tournaments, the Yale women’s tennis team finally got a taste of home play, but the Elis failed to capitalize on this home court advantage.
Hosting Boston College, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Stony Brook and UMass at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, Yale drew the short stick in all three of its round robin, pool play matches. From the pool of seven Northeast schools, the Bulldogs went up against the Big Green, the Big Red and the Eagles in the Bulldog Invitational over the course of three days.
“It’s tricky because we’re still figuring out our players’ tendencies,” head coach Danielle McNamara said regarding early season play. “It’s different for everyone, but we want to get them to a place mentally and emotionally where they can perform well.”
The first day of play was less than stellar for the hosts when facing off against Dartmouth on Friday. Yale dropped two of three matches in doubles and five of seven in singles, putting them at a disappointing 3–7 for the day.
The pairing of captain Tina Jiang ’17 and Elizabeth Zordani ’18, which found success going undefeated at the Harvard Fall Classic two weeks back, took their doubles match 6–3 over Dartmouth’s top doubles pairing of Taylor Ng and Allison McCann. However, second and third doubles for Yale did not fare as well, as they dropped their sets 6–4 and 6–2, respectively.
Dartmouth similarly took control of singles play as its top three players took victories over Jiang, Valerie Shklover ’18 and Zordani. Jiang was able to push her opponent to three sets but ultimately fell in a decisive 6–1 set after going 6–4, 2–6 through the first two.
Only Opala Dhingra ’20 and Amy Yang ’19 were able to make dents in Dartmouth’s lead as they fought to straight set wins, pushing Friday’s win total to three.
Saturday came with marginal improvement for the Bulldogs, but Cornell proved to be just as tough as Dartmouth, as the Big Red took seven of 11 matches against Yale.
The tandem of Caroline Amos ’19 and Caroline Lynch ’17 scored the lone doubles victory at the fourth slot for the Elis as the previously undefeated Jiang and Zordani dropped a 6–1 set to Cornell’s senior team of Marika Cusick and Alexandra D’Ascenzo.
For the second straight day, Yale’s singles needed to be close to perfect to notch a team victory. Jiang and Zordani both made up for their dropped doubles set with hard-fought singles triumphs. Jiang worked her way to a 7–6 (7–2), 6–0 win at first singles while Zordani came back in a 3–6, 6–1, 7–6 (12-10) thriller at third singles, which included saving five match points.
“The first set I wasn’t playing well, but I was playing my game by the second set,” Zordani said. “Then in the third set I got down 5–2, but I stepped up my game to win four games in a row and then pull it off in a crazy tiebreaker.”
Shklover rounded out the three singles wins in straight-set fashion over Ananya Dua.
Still, four losses in the other singles matches were too much to overcome against Cornell. Although three of their four losses came in three sets, Sunday Swett ’18, Dhingra, Lynch and Yang fell to their Big Red opponents to put a close to Saturday’s action.
“It’s helpful to see the new faces on the other Ivy league teams to get a sense of how they play,” McNamara said. “We walk away with really great scouting notes so that’s definitely helpful come spring. It’s a big benefit to see how we stack up against them early on.”
On the last day of the Bulldog Invitational, Yale faced a familiar opponent in Boston College. The two teams played to a tie at the Harvard Fall Classic in Yale’s most competitive match that weekend.
The matchup lived up to its short history, as Boston College eked out a 7–5 victory over the hosts. Both teams used very different lineups at this tournament, embracing the experimentation that comes with the fall season.
The top three doubles matches scored 6–4, all in favor of the Eagles, while the fourth match went 7–6 (7–5) in favor of Yale’s Lynch and Swett.
“Doubles is my personal favorite so it stung a little more to drop this match,” Shklover said of her loss at first doubles. “It’s hard because we’re still rotating partners and figuring things out. But it was a step in the right direction because I got more experience.”
The same trend continued in singles as the two teams split their eight bouts. Boston College took the top two slots but Yale came back at third and fourth singles with Yang winning 6–3, 6–4, and Shklover showing resiliency in a 1–6, 6–2, 10–7 battle against Kylie Wilcox.
The Bulldogs dropped all three matches this weekend, but they have an off week to work on their game. The Elis will compete at home in the USTA/ITA Regional Championships on Oct. 20 through 24.