Women’s tennis won matches against Yale and Penn this weekend at the 2018 Eastern College Athletic Association Indoor Team Championship.
The Lions (5-2), who were seeded seventh in the tournament draw, topped the sixth-seeded Bulldogs 4-0 and the fourth-seeded Quakers 4-3 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, after falling in Friday’s match against second-seeded Dartmouth 4-1.
Despite the defeat to the Big Green (5-4) on Friday, head coach Ilene Weintraub, CC ’02, said she was satisfied with the team’s performance across the weekend’s entirety.
In the Light Blue’s first victory of the tournament, it blitzed Yale (3-3) after easily capturing the doubles point behind the first doubles pair of senior Adi Milstein and first-year Christie Wan, which prevailed 6-4, and the third doubles pair of junior Andrea Kevakian and sophomore Ali Pollack, which captured a 6-2 victory to give the Lions the doubles point.
With a 1-0 lead in hand, the Lions cruised through singles play, propelled by the first-years at the top of their lineup and by junior Sarah Hu.
Hu eased past the Bulldogs’ Mimi Levine 6-0, 6-3, to give the Lions an early 2-0 lead, which set the table for Wan and fellow first-year Jennifer Kerr.
Playing at first and second singles, respectively, Wan and Kerr were part of a top 10 recruiting class and have impressed all season long, with a combined 9-3 record atop the Light Blue’s lineup.
At second singles, Kerr tallied a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Yale’s Valerie Shklover to give the Lions their third point, and Wan clinched the match for Columbia by defeating the Bulldogs’ Samantha Martinelli, ranked No. 103 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, 6-2, 6-3.
The performance was an important step forward after a setback against a potent Dartmouth squad the day before, but the Lions’ next match against Penn (3-3) would not prove to be nearly as easy as their victory against Yale.
Competing against a tougher Penn squad, the Lions began the match behind, as Penn captured the doubles point after victories at third and second doubles. The second doubles pair of Kerr and Hu fell just short, losing a heartbreaking 7-6(5) tiebreak to gift the Quakers the point, and with the Lions trailing 1-0, they needed four singles victories to clinch the match.
Despite her strong performance the day before, Hu could not replicate the magic against Penn and fell against the Quakers’ Marta Kowalska in straight sets, making the deficit 2-0 for the Lions.
Kerr and Pollack would even the match after close victories at second and fifth singles, respectively. Kerr defeated Penn’s Jimena Rodriguez-Benito 7-5, 6-3, while Pollack followed suit with her own 6-4, 7-5 victory.
With the score knotted at 2-2, first-year Sarah Rahman fell after winning the first set, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, and the stage was set for the Lions’ comeback.
First to finish was Wan, who split the first two sets with Penn’s Lina Qostal 6-3, 2-6 and won a 7-6(4) tiebreak to close out her match and even the score at 3-3. It all came down to Kevakian at third singles.
Kevakian, who has grown accustomed to securing matches during her time in Morningside Heights, won the first set 7-6(3) in a narrow tiebreaker against Penn’s Ashley Zhu. In her next set, the score was knotted at 6-6, but Kevakian once again prevailed, this time taking the tiebreaker 7-5 en route to a 7-6(3), 7-6(5) victory. Her win gave the Lions a narrow 4-3 triumph over the Quakers in a preview of what appears to be a competitive upcoming Ancient Eight season.
While the team could not defeat Dartmouth, the match against the Big Green was closer than the team anticipated.
Dartmouth began by capturing the doubles point with victories at third and first doubles, and jumped out to a 3-0 lead after sophomore Renee Ren and Kevakian fell at sixth and third singles, respectively.
The Lions got on the board after Wan topped Dartmouth’s Kristina Mathis 4-6, 6-0, 6-0, winning 12 consecutive games in what would be the Lions’ sole victory of the match. But after Hu fell at fourth singles, match play was halted with Pollack leading at fifth singles and Kerr headed for a third set at second singles.
Weintraub praised Wan’s performance in the match against the Big Green and also noted that the team could have easily come back from the early 3-0 deficit.
“Christie was an outstanding competitor this weekend,” Weintraub said. “Against Mathis, an experienced senior, she lost a close first set and then just stepped up her game and dominated for the rest of the match.”
The two match victories were part of a litany of positives for the weekend, according to Weintraub, who added that the wins will give the team confidence heading into this weekend’s showdown against No. 21 Kentucky at the Dick Savitt Tennis Center.
“I think the timing is perfect to play Kentucky, the highest-ranked team on our schedule right now,” she said. “I am going to do everything I can to get us four points.”
First serve against the Wildcats is scheduled for Saturday at noon.