While the rest of campus buckled down in Sterling Memorial Library to prepare for midterms, the Yale women’s tennis team traveled to the Sunshine State to play against two highly competitive teams — Florida International University and No. 18 University of Central Florida.
In the first match of the weekend, the Bulldogs (5–6, 0–0 Ivy) came out on the losing side, just barely missing out 4–3 against FIU (6–4, 3–0 Conference USA). The Panthers, after defeating North Texas the day after their matchup with Yale, now have a five-game winning streak. On day two of their Florida crusade, the Elis lost to the University of Central Florida (10–2, 1–0 AAC) 6–1. Although both matches proved fruitless, the trip granted the Bulldogs valuable playing experience.
“In general, I think we competed really well [against FIU] and gave ourselves a good chance — especially [Saturday],” Jessie Gong ’22 said. “The team was up there in terms of energy, but it wasn’t easy because it’s hot down here, and we have been playing indoors a lot. We made the appropriate adjustments, and overall it’s a great experience to play against such highly ranked schools.”
In the match against FIU, the Panthers won the doubles point, gaining an early lead and putting the Bulldogs in a tough position. From there, the tight score reflected a remarkably even playing field. Samantha Martinelli ’21 defeated rival Maryna Veksler 6–0, 6–2, tying the two teams 1–1. Subsequently, FIU won the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, with Basak Akbas overpowering Gong 6–4, 6–3 and Sandra Bozinovic besting Raissa Lou ’22 with an identical score.
From there, the Elis rebounded as Kathy Wang ’22 clinched the No. 5 spot 7–5, 6–2 and Amy Yang ’19 defeated the Panthers’ Maria Turrillo 6–3, 6–4. With the score tied at 3–3, FIU’s Kamila Umarova narrowly beat Caroline Dunleavey ’21 in a series of three sets 4–6, 6–0, 6–4 to put the Panthers on top.
The Bulldogs, knowing that they were up against a top team, played fiercely on Sunday. However, No. 18 UCF still pulled away with a 6–1 win. The Knights are currently sitting at their highest ranking in program history and have an eight-match winning streak.
Despite sustaining a disappointing loss, Yale had two significant wins, proving the team’s ability to compete with such elite competition. The powerful Bulldog duo Martinelli and Gong defeated UCF’s Valeriya Zeleva and Ksenia Kuznetsova — the first time this year that a UCF pair has lost on court one. Martinelli and Gong are ranked No. 52 in the ITA doubles rankings, while Zeleva and Kuznetsova are ranked No. 22. Kuznetsova has established herself as an extremely tough opponent this season, having recently won Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Week and defeated the No. 33 player in the nation, McCartney Kessler, a week ago. Later in the afternoon, on court four, Lou was able to edge out Domenika Turkovic 7–6 (8–6), 6–2 to give the Bulldogs another strong win.
“I personally took a lot of confidence coming off this weekend as I was able to get two wins off tough opponents, and I’m hoping to carry this momentum into the Ivy season,” Lou said. “I think our team this year is really strong but also has so much potential to improve and grow as the season goes on, so I’m really excited for us to continue building on what we have [so we can] perform our best in conference matches.”
Despite these knockout matches, the Elis were unable to hold back the Knights. Yale was ultimately defeated 6–1, a result which moved the team to a 5–6 overall record and a two-game losing streak.
Yale travels to California over spring break to compete against San Diego, San Diego State and Colorado State.
Margaret Hedeman | firstname.lastname@example.org .