Despite the loss of three players last semester, the Yale women’s tennis team has turned its attention to its indoor season with the hopes of a successful spring and improvement in the Ivy League.
Madison Battaglia ’20, Sherry Li ’17 and Sonal Shrivastava ’19 each departed the team last semester for personal reasons, leaving the current roster with just nine players. Despite success on the court in their respective careers, the trio will no longer shoulder the time commitment of a varsity sport in favor of other opportunities.
“Everything we do is with an eye toward laying the foundation of the program for the long haul,” McNamara wrote in a message to the News, “so our primary goal for this season is to continue to strengthen our team culture and focus on the process of improvement.”
The departure of three players comes during a period of instability for the women’s tennis team, which has seen three different coaches in the last three years. Prior to this season, the program brought back head coach Danielle McNamara, who led the Bulldogs to four Ivy League titles in eight seasons before leaving after the 2013–14 season to coach at the University of Texas. In the two seasons without McNamara, Yale finished tied for fifth and seventh in the Ancient Eight.
Battaglia emerged as one of the most prominent members of the freshman class early in her Bulldog career. The New York native was invited to compete last October at the U.S. Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Women’s All-American Championships — one of the most prestigious tournaments for college athletes — where she won her first match before falling in the Round of 32. After her trip to Los Angeles, Battaglia rejoined the Bulldogs at the ITA Regional Championships at Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center. There, she made the Round of 16 in singles and the quarterfinals in doubles, earning her the No. 14 singles rank in the Oracle/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings.
“I am grateful to have been able to play tennis and represent Yale,” said Battaglia, who officially left the team after finals period last semester. “At this point, I will be focusing on my academics and other endeavors.”
Li had also been instrumental to the team throughout her career at Yale. Her freshman year, Li earned second-team All-Ivy Honors at doubles and continued to exhibit her strengths with a combined 28–12 doubles record during her sophomore and junior season. The senior played in the No. 5 singles position during the Bulldogs’ 6–1 Ivy League campaign in 2014, and has contributed as a middle-of-the-ladder player since.
Li as well as Shrivastava declined to comment on their reasons for leaving the team.
Teammate Elizabeth Zordani ’18 added that the team is focused on learning, growing and improving so that by the height of its season, the Bulldogs will be performing at their peak. The junior believes that the team will have a successful season in terms of its growth and team unity but cannot predict at this early point how successful its will be as competition approaches.
“We have a long season ahead of us, but I’m confident in our abilities for this season,” teammate Caroline Lynch ’17 said. “We have some great competition ahead of us, and I’m excited to be able to compete at such a high level.”
Although down three players from the beginning of the season, Yale will benefit from the return of Carol Finke ’18, who did not play in the fall for health reasons.
Finke led the team with two wins during the Elis’ home opener against Syracuse, one coming in a three-set thriller after dropping the first set at No. 1 singles against ITA No. 99 Gabriela Knutson. She concluded the day with a 6–3 doubles win at No. 1 alongside Zordani.
“We’ve only had two official matches and an exhibition match so far, but I think that [the team is] off to a good start so far,” Zordani said.
She added that the team has taken away positive things from each match including individual wins over ranked opponents and a growing sense of team unity.
Yale will face off against schools such as Quinnipiac, the University of Connecticut and Boston University this season before beginning Ivy League play on April 2 in Rhode Island against Brown. The Elis will also host the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championship, beginning Feb. 10.
The Elis will compete next on Feb. 3 at home against Wake Forest.