The Yale women’s tennis team finished third over the weekend at the 72nd annual Blue Gray National Classic where they faced off against some of the country’s leading teams, including No. 5 Princeton. This marks the Bulldogs’ best performance in the tournament since 2013. The Bulldogs finished strong, taking down No. 31 Auburn 4–2 Saturday afternoon.
Yale (8–3, 0–0 Ivy) opened play on Friday with a 4–2 takedown of Alabama (11–2, 0–0 SEC), coming off a 4–3 victory against Indiana the week prior. However, the Elis were not able to get around Princeton (9–2, 0–0) to secure a spot in the finals. Yale fell 4–1 in the semis Saturday morning against the Tigers, but bounced back to earn third place out of eight teams in the tournament with a decisive 4–2 victory against Auburn (7–3, 0–0). The third-place finish was a significant achievement for the Elis, having finished seventh in the tournament last season.
“It was a really exciting weekend for our team to get two decisive wins over two strong SEC programs in Auburn and Alabama, especially since we played them outdoors,” captain Caroline Dunleavy ’21 said. “We’re all proud of the way we competed and fought for every match. It’s really positive for us heading into an off-weekend, and we’ll look to carry our momentum into our matches over spring break.”
The tournament kicked off with the Bulldogs taking on the Crimson Tide, which boasted the best nonconference record in its conference. This marked the second meeting between Alabama and Yale, the first being at last year’s Blue Gray National Classic when the Tide came away with a 4–1 victory in the first round.
This weekend, after dropping the first two matches against Alabama seniors Alba Cortina Pou and Ann Selim, the Bulldogs went on to take the next four. No. 46 Samantha Martinelli ’21 knocked off Moka Ito at No. 1 6–3, 6–1. Jessie Gong ’22 pulled out a 6–1, 3–6,7–5 win, while Chelsea Kung ’23 defeated Isabella Harvison 6–3, 4–6, 6–2. At No. 4 in singles, Rena Lin ’23 delivered for the Elis with a defeat of Sasha Gorchanyuk in 3 sets.
The Bulldogs then advanced to the second round of play to take on Princeton. The Tigers took the doubles portion Friday with No. 23 Grace Joyce and Daria Frayman edging out the Elis in a 6–7 defeat of No. 3-ranked duo of Martinelli and Gong. Kung and Lin also suffered a 3–6 defeat, but Dunleavy and Rhea Shrivastava ’23 pulled out a 7–5 victory.
In singles, Kung defeated Frayman of Princeton 6–4, 3–0 after Frayman retired the match in the second set. However, Dunleavy fell to opponent No. 57 Zoe Howard in the second set 5–7, 1–6. Both Martinelli and Gong were also defeated in hard-fought three-set matches. Princeton went on to finish second in the tournament, later losing the championship match to No. 19 Wake Forest 4–1. The Bulldogs’ loss to Princeton marks only their third this season, the other two coming against No. 49 Boston College and Columbia.
“The team had really high energy, and we competed very hard the entire weekend,” Gong said. “We had a tough loss against Princeton, but the final score does not reflect how close the match actually was. They’re the fifth-ranked team in the country, but we were right there with them and could have won — it is a confidence booster and we believe we’ll get them during Ivy season. A few hours after our loss against Princeton, we were back on court against Auburn, and I thought we bounced back very well.”
Following the loss to Princeton, the Elis went on to face Auburn, which in turn had been defeated 4–1 by Wake Forest earlier that morning. In doubles, Dunleavy and Shrivastava dominated in a match against Auburn’s Carolyn Ansari and Lindsay Song, securing a 6–2 victory. Kung and Lin’s doubles match came down to a tiebreaker in which the Bulldogs pulled through for their team adding a 7–6 win. Martinelli and Gong also won their first set before doubles was suspended.
In the singles round, Martinelli downed 78th-ranked Taylor Russo in two straight 6–2 sets. Auburn tied the 2–0 Yale lead after defeating Kung and Lin. But soon enough, Raissa Lou ’22 had Yale back on top with a 6–2, 6–3 victory over Madeline Meredith.
Dunleavy ensured a strong finish for her team as she clinched a fourth 6–4, 1–6, 6–0 win over Yu Chen. With their strong showing in Montgomery, the Elis are hoping their momentum will translate to good news in Florida over spring break as they look to take on Florida Atlantic, Florida International University, No. 27 Miami, No. 3 Texas and No. 14 Central Florida.
“It was a great weekend for us — we got to play a lot of matches and finish the tournament with two wins,” Shrivastava said. “This gives us even more confidence going into our spring break trip where we are going to be playing several top teams as well.”
The Bulldogs play Florida Atlantic, their first opponent in the Sunshine State, on Sunday, March 8, in Boca Raton.
Sophie Kane | firstname.lastname@example.org