In an effort to defend its home courts, the Yale women’s tennis team triumphed over league-leader No. 35 Columbia 4–3 in thrilling fashion before toppling Cornell 4–0 a day later to increase its winning streak to six games and get off to its best conference start in six seasons.
The Bulldogs fell behind early this weekend (11–8, 3–0 Ivy) as Columbia (13–2, 2–1) snatched the doubles point and ran away with the first two singles matches at Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center on Saturday. With the Elis trailing 3–0, Columbia needed to take just one more match to win the duel but the Elis ferociously surged back to win the next four singles matches and close out the competition, 4–3.
“It was really a full team effort, and it was especially exciting to see all of our hard work coming together in such a big match,” Caroline Dunleavy ’21 said. “Everyone is tired when it’s this late in the season on both teams, and our team did a really great job of fighting through fatigue and injuries to find four points on the board.”
Yale set the tone against Cornell (6–12, 0–3 Ivy) a day later by winning the first two doubles matches 6–3 and 6–4. Spurred by picking up the doubles point, the Bulldogs proceeded to defeat their first three opponents in the singles round and claim a 4–0 victory over the Big Red to cap off a two-match Ivy sweep.
After a tight loss to Columbia in February, Dunleavy said that the team came into last weekend especially motivated to slay the Lions in its second meeting this season. With the hard-fought victory, Yale also improved to 3–0 in Ivy play for the first time since the spring of 2013.
Despite immense fatigue, Yale clearly outplayed Columbia in the back half of singles play. Raissa Lou ’22 terminated the Lions’ momentum. After edging out Christie Wan in a tiebreaker to win the first set, she ultimately won the match 7–6 (4), 6–4 to keep the Elis’ hopes of victory intact.
With the overall score at 3–1, Samantha Martinelli ’21 then defeated Columbia’s Jennifer Kerr in a dramatic turnaround. After losing the first set 6–1, Martinelli closed out the second and third sets, both ending in tiebreakers. Jessie Gong ’22 picked up the next win against Melissa Sakar 7–6 (10), 6–3. Dunleavy clinched the win for Yale, beating out Akanksha Bhan in the No. 2 spot, 6–4, 4–6, 6–4.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs returned to the courts to conquer Cornell 4–0. Yale defeated the Big Red in both No. 1 and No. 3 doubles, prematurely terminating the No. 2 doubles match, which was tied at 4–4. On the No. 1, 2 and 5 courts, Yale easily picked up three wins in singles play, all with similar scores. Martinelli and Amy Yang ’19 individually bested Columbia’s Mariko Iinuma and Sarah Campbell, respectively, with identical winning scores of 6–1, 6–2. The Elis were ahead in all three other singles matches when play was stopped.
“Our team has played a really tough schedule this season which I think prepared us very well for [Columbia],” Dunleavy said. “It was very important that we had a short memory and did not celebrate our Columbia upset too much before going into the Cornell match. I think that this is a great win for us given how exhausted our team was after [Saturday] and how we were able to come back and compete [on Sunday] so well.”
Yale moved from fourth to first in the Ivy League standings as a result of its pair of wins. Princeton, who is tied with the Bulldogs for first, is the only other team with a perfect 3–0 conference record. The Tigers will host the Elis on April 21 in the two squads’ season finale a few weeks before NCAAs.
Though difficult to predict with four Ivy matches still remaining, the Bulldogs may have an NCAA tournament in their future if they continue their streak of success.
“After putting in so much work this year, it’s really gratifying to see it all paying off in such a big way,” Martinelli said. “I’m very excited to see what the rest of the season has in store.”
The Bulldogs travel to Allston for their matches against Harvard next weekend at Beren Tennis Center.
Margaret Hedeman | email@example.com