The Yale women’s tennis team spent the weekend vying with the top programs in the country in the National Team Indoor Championships. Earning their slot in the competition by virtue of hosting it for the first time, the Elis entertained 15 other squads over the course of the weekend.
One of eight unseeded teams, the Bulldogs drew No. 2 North Carolina in the first round of the single-elimination tournament on Friday. Over the weekend, the team fell to two more ranked teams — No. 14 Auburn and No. 19 Mississippi — to extend its winless streak to seven.
“The competition was amazing,” Carol Finke ’18 said. “We all fought for every point. The opportunity to test our skills against the best players in the country was a unique and incredible opportunity for us. Although we did not win a match as a team, we were successful in forcing our opponents to play their best to beat us.”
Yale is only the third school to host the National Indoor Team Championships in the tournament’s 30-year history, following in the footsteps of the Universities of Wisconsin and Virginia.
The Tar Heels, who won the national championship in both 2013 and 2015, swept to a 4–0 success on Friday afternoon, boosted by strong performances from their two leading singles players, Sara Daavettila and Hayley Carter, ranked No. 2 and 5 in the country, respectively. Finke took on Carter at the No. 1 slot and lost 6–3, 6–0 while Bulldog captain Tina Jiang ’17 fell to Daavettila by an identical scoreline. North Carolina blanked Yale at second and third doubles to earn the doubles point and progressed onto the next round when Valerie Shklover ’18 retired at the No. 4 singles spot.
After the defeat by a supremely talented opponent, the Elis dropped into the consolation bracket along with most of their unseeded brethren. Only Texas Tech vanquished a seeded team, as the No. 12 Red Raiders edged out eighth-seeded No. 9 Vanderbilt.
On Saturday, Yale faced off against No. 14 Auburn, after the Tigers fell to sixth-seeded No. 7 Ohio State. The Elis earned a point in this match, thanks to Elizabeth Zordani’s ’18 victory at No. 5 singles. Zordani defeated Roos van der Zwaan in straight sets, 6–3, 6-4. However, Auburn earned the doubles point with wins at second and third doubles, and secured three more singles, and the corresponding victory, with wins at Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
“I think the team had a great performance this weekend, especially in Saturday’s match against Auburn,” Caroline Lynch ’17 said. “We played with a high intensity and high energy and were very close to taking the doubles point against Auburn. Everyone is coming into their own in singles and finding the best of their game and everyone on the team can take a lot of positives from their performances this weekend.”
The final matchup for Yale came against another SEC team, Mississippi, on Sunday. The Rebels condemned the Bulldogs to a winless weekend by pitching another shutout. Ole Miss claimed the doubles point and won singles points at Nos. 1, 4 and 5 to earn the victory.
The tournament progressed into the semifinals on Sunday, with the Tar Heels edging past Ohio State 4–3 to reach the finals after vanquishing defending champions No. 8 University of California, Berkeley in the quarters. In the other semifinal contest, an intra-SEC matchup between No. 1 Florida and fifth-seeded No. 6 Georgia resulted in the Gators steamrolling the Bulldogs 4–0 to secure the other spot in Monday’s championship match.
Despite the tough defeats, Yale played hard against a series of highly-touted, nationally-ranked opponents. The Bulldogs did not take many sets but pushed the opposition to produce their best and Zordani’s win on Saturday leaves the Elis with a memorable memento of the weekend.
“I think the big takeaway from the weekend is that we’re pretty close to the other teams,” Zordani said. “But it’s the little things that ends up making the difference.”
The Yale women’s tennis team has next weekend off before playing against the University of Massachusetts and Quinnipiac the following weekend.