Steve Musco

Two wins away from securing its first Ivy League Championship since 2013, the Yale women’s tennis team suffered a pair of 4–1 and 4–0 defeats to Penn and Princeton, respectively, in its final weekend of the season. The loss to the Tigers handed the Ancient Eight title to Princeton as the Bulldogs closed out the conference season in fourth place.

After the Elis began Ivy play with a robust 4–1 record, capturing the league championship seemed difficult yet plausible with a match against the first-place Tigers in the regular season finale. But the Bulldogs (12–11, 4–3 Ivy) dropped both matches on the road against Penn (16–5, 5–2) and Princeton (18–4, 7–0) this weekend. The Elis dropped the doubles point to both teams and failed to pick up this loss during the singles round in either of the two matchups.

“Penn and Princeton were both really tough teams and they started out strong from the beginning of the doubles until the end of the singles,” Caroline Dunleavy ’21 said. “Although the team score was 4–1 at Penn, I don’t think that it reflects how close we really were and how competitive the match was. Our team has been fighting for every match this season and this weekend was no different although these matches didn’t go our way.”

On Saturday, the Bulldogs traveled to the Hecht & Hamlin Tennis Centers to compete against Penn on the road. The Quakers got off to a quick start after clinching the doubles point with a pair of 6–2 wins in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. Penn jumped out to a 2–0 lead after Iuliia Bryzgalova bested Samantha Martinelli ’21 6–4, 6–4 in the first match of the singles round. Dunleavy then defeated Penn’s Marta Kowalska 6–4, 6–4 at No. 2, but the Quakers quickly bounced back with wins in the No. 5 and No. 6 spots to close out the competition.

Sunday’s matchup proved to be just as difficult as Saturday’s, since the Princeton team boasted a 17–4 overall record and 6–0 Ivy mark prior to the competition. Yale again fell in the doubles round, giving Princeton an early advantage. Tigers Stephanie Schrage, Brianna Shvets and Nicole Kalhorn all secured wins in the singles round to come out on top 4–0. With the loss, Yale dropped to 3–10 in road matches this season, including just one win away from home in conference play.

The Tigers captured their fifth Ivy title in the past six years while posting a perfect 7–0 record for the second consecutive season.

Although the Blue and White fell short of winning the Ivy League Championship and earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Elis’ fourth-place finish was a promising step forward for the program after Yale went 0–7 in Ivy play in 2018.

Prior to the season, Martinelli mentioned that focusing “on keeping team spirit and the fight alive” will “lead [the team] to better results in the future.” This strategy certainly worked out for the Elis in 2019, as the team doubled its overall win total.

The Bulldogs accumulated their first winning record since 2014 when they went 14–8 and 6–1 in Ancient Eight play. In the past three seasons, Yale finished in either last place or tied for last place in the conference. As a result, this season’s 12–11 mark demonstrated immense success for the Elis and potentially foreshadows growth for the program in coming seasons.

“It’s tough to see our season end like this, but all of our returners are eager to come back next season and work towards an Ivy title,” Dunleavy said. “Our team is especially driven after some tough losses this season and I think that those will prepare us for next season and make us even more motivated.”

Princeton will find out its NCAA Tournament opponent when the full field is announced on April 29 at 6:30 p.m.

Margaret Hedeman | margaret.hedeman@yale.edu