After two tough weekends of conference matches in early April, the Yale women’s tennis team will travel to Penn and Princeton this weekend to continue its Ivy League play.
The Bulldogs (7–12, 0–3 Ivy) saw a bumpy start to the season, losing seven straight matches. After falling to Mississippi in mid-April, the Elis bounced back to win seven of their last nine games before falling 4–3 to Brown, Dartmouth and Harvard. In the first of a weekend doubleheader, Yale will now go on the road against Princeton (11–7, 2–1). The Tigers, tied for second in the Ivy League, edged out conference opponent Columbia in another narrow 4–3 match last weekend.
“[Penn and Princeton] are both great teams,” head coach Danielle McNamara said. “I think we’re probably going to have similar close matches, so it’s all about making adjustments and playing the way we want to play.”
Winning singles matches will be key for Yale in looking to defeat Princeton. While Katrine Steffensen leads the Tigers in Princeton’s No. 1 singles position, it is No. 4 Nicole Kalhorn who has the best record on the team, boasting a 9–2 record in 2017. The Colorado Springs native also makes up half of the first doubles team alongside Caroline Joyce. Both Kalhorn and Joyce won their singles matches and doubles match to clinch the win over Colombia last weekend.
Carol Finke ’18 plays a tough role at Yale’s No. 1 single spot. The junior has gone 1–2 in Ivy matches individually so far this season, claiming a big win over Dartmouth’s Alyza Benotto. Finke also plays alongside teammate Valerie Shklover ’18 in the No. 2 double slot — having gone 2–0 against conference opponents thus far, the duo will play an essential role this weekend.
“I think we’ve come a long way this year, and I’m really proud of how everyone has competed the last few matches,” Jiang said. “Although we lost the last three matches, any one of them could have gone the other way. I think the biggest thing is going back out there, believing and executing.”
The Bulldogs’ top doubles team, captain Tina Jiang ’17 and Elizabeth Zordani ’18, lost to the Crimson last weekend. However, both women beat their individual opponents in singles matches to help earn the Elis valuable points in the close contest.
McNamara said she is pleased with the duo, saying both players have had successful seasons thus far, as Zordani has amassed a 6–0 conference record and Jiang is also playing well consistently.
“[Tina and I] had a really good win over Dartmouth last Friday,” Zordani said. “It’s hard to play the number one spot because there are so many talented doubles teams. [This weekend] we need to be more aggressive and come into the net more because we were passive against Harvard.”
The Bulldogs will follow their contest against Princeton with a match against a Penn team (8–8, 1–2) hosting its final home games of the spring season against Brown and Yale. The Quakers are looking to extend their winning streak after a 4–3 win last weekend against Cornell, who was previously undefeated in the Ivy League.
Strong doubles play drove Penn’s first win in the Ancient Eight this spring. The Quakers’ initial points were secured by their No. 1 doubles team and first-time partners senior Kana Daniel — who boasts a singles record of 17–9 and a doubles record of 9–11 over the 2016–17 season — and sophomore Ojasvinee Singh. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are looking to bounce back from their loss to a Harvard squad undefeated in conference play. The Crimson took all three doubles points on the way to a 4–3 victory.
“We’re just doing our best to make sure we’re competing and let the match take care of itself,” Zordani said.
On the singles side, the Bulldogs will need a strong showing as they face off against a determined Penn squad. The win brought the Quakers’ singles record to 91–84 this year, including a record of 11–5 for sophomore Marta Kowalska who narrowly defeated Cornell’s Madison Stevens 6–1, 5–7, 7–5 last weekend.
On the Yale side, Zordani, playing in the No. 5 spot, will be hoping to build on her success, a week removed from an important win on the singles side against Harvard.
“Elizabeth has won all of her Ivy League matches so far, and winning three sets on Sunday was a great turn around for her,” McNamara said. “She’s done consistently well, which is great. Tina has battled injuries and still competes hard, and to get a couple matches under her belt is good.”
The Bulldogs will need a strong showing against two Princeton and Penn teams who are coming off wins last weekend, but as McNamara assured, “We’re trying to help our players win, and they’re getting better at it.”
Yale’s weekend of play begins at 1 p.m. in Princeton on Friday and continues Saturday at 1 p.m. in Philadelphia.