In a season of tumultuous changes, the Yale women’s tennis team has sought stability — and a torrid March gave the Bulldogs a sustained stretch of victories in the leadup to Ivy League play.
But on Sunday, the Elis (7–10, 0–1 Ivy) encountered a less-welcome stability, commencing conference play the same way the 2016 campaign ended: with a loss to Brown (10–5, 1–0). The Bears halted Yale’s hot streak of seven wins in its last nine matches in a tight 4–3 contest behind a string of dominant singles performances.
“The two key things for us … are going to be us having an unwavering confidence in ourselves and believing that we can do this, and then just competing extremely well,” head coach Danielle McNamara said before the Brown match. “We’ve talked a lot about … what it looks like to fight, to hustle, to get one more ball back, to have a tough mentality where there’s nothing that you can’t handle on that given day.”
In Providence, this mindset was on full display, albeit in a narrow defeat to Brown.
No. 1 Carol Finke ’18 did not wilt under the pressure of Ancient Eight competition in the top ladder spot, setting the tone with a 6–3, 6–4 victory. In the fifth slot, Elizabeth Zordani ’18 continued her breakout season with a 6–0, 6–3 dispatching of Bear sophomore Katie Ta.
The Lake Forest, Illinois native was an infrequent contributor to Yale’s starting lineup her first two years with the team, but with a small roster has grown into a larger role as a veteran. Though the Elis lost to Brown last season to cement a finish in the Ivy League cellar, Zordani earned a singles win as a No. 6 seed, and duplicated that success on Sunday.
The remainder of Yale’s singles matches also resulted in the same outcomes from last year’s battle — the No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 6 matchups all ended disappointingly for the Bulldogs. No. 6 Caroline Lynch ’17 could not extend her streak of seven wins in her last eight matches in a 6–1, 6–2 loss, while Valerie Shklover ’18, who had won eight of her last 10 matches, forced two tiebreakers but came up short in back-to-back sets to freshman Devon Jack.
The close competition Shklover faced on the individual court accompanied her and her teammates on the doubles draw. She and Finke edged the Bears’ second doubles team for a 6–4 victory, and Lynch teamed with Amy Yang ’19 to eke out a 7–6 tiebreaker triumph in the third position. According to Zordani, Sunday’s success was the product of a continued focus on doubles play in practice.
“We’ve had a huge emphasis on doubles,” Zordani said. “We haven’t really been winning as many doubles points as we would’ve liked, but I think our doubles play has improved a lot. … It could just be the amount of matches that we’ve played and the experience that we’ve had, but I just think that we’re competing harder.”
In sweeps of Boston University and Stony Brook, McNamara paired Shklover with Lynch and Finke with Yang. The swap she made for Sunday’s match paid off, as the Bulldogs took the doubles point against Brown for the eighth time in as many seasons.
Absent from the action was Yale’s sole freshman, Opala Dhingra ’20, who won both her matches in the No. 6 singles position last week against the Terriers and Seawolves.
The trip to Providence marked not only the start of conference competition, but also a prolonged road stretch for the lightly traveled Elis. In the spring season, the team made only one road trip, a 1–2 swing in California over spring break, but Sunday’s match initiated a stretch of four out of five away contests.
The Elis will seek to even their conference record on Friday against Dartmouth at Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.