The Harvard women’s tennis team represented the Crimson from ocean to ocean, competing in both the ITA All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and the ECAC Division I Invitational in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., this past weekend.
Defending champion Harvard was seeded No. 1 and began the tournament campaign with convincing wins over Army and Columbia.
But Harvard’s winning ways came to a halt in the semifinals when the Crimson squared off against Yale. The Bulldogs defeated Harvard 4-0 and went on to win the championship title, but the competition was not as one-sided as the score indicated.
Yale’s Susan Hinker defeated sophomore Ashley Hyotte 6-4, 6-2. The Bulldogs’ Ashley and Karlyn Martin triumphed over sophomores Lola Ajilore 6-0, 6-4, and Christina Chen 6-0, 6-4.
Sophomore Alexis Martire led Margaret Purcell 6-4, 4-1, while senior Sanja Bajin trailed Biffy Kaufman 5-6 (4), 6-2 and Cao Minh trailed Stephanie White 3-6, 3-4.
Martire lost to Purcell in singles competition last year, so her improved performance was one plus from the Yale match.
“I was playing great tennis yesterday,” Martire said. “Purcell hit very loopy shots, and my footwork and slice backhand were really effective.”
“I was upset I didn’t win my match, because it was a sign that I have improved my game,” she added. “But I was more upset not to win for the team.”
The Nos. 2 and 3 Yale doubles team defeated the Crimson by an 8-1 margin. Hiniker-Martin downed Hyotte-Ajilore, and Cao Minh-Finicane fell to Pucell-Martin. Bajin-Martire led 5-3 but did not finish.
The Crimson failed to defend its title largely due to the absence of several key competitors on account of injuries and other commitments. Sophomore No. 1 Courtney Bergman and freshman Eva Wang were both recovering from ITA All-Americans and could not compete. Sophomore Susanna Lingman missed competition as a result of a strained stomach muscle, and freshman Alli Pillinger did not play due to an earlier injury.
“I think that, given the situation with so many out in the line-up, we did the best we could,” Martire said.
Due to rain, competition began indoors, forcing some players to wait their turn due to a shortage of courts.
Harvard started out strong when Hyotte and Anjilore won their No. 2 doubles match, 8-4.
In No. 1 doubles, the Army duo of Annie Collier and Megan Noble fell with an audible thud to Bajin and Martire, 8-1. The Crimson tandem is ranked No. 47 in the nation.
The freshman pairing of Lyly Cao Minh and Moira Finicane were down 5-3 when their match was stopped after Harvard secured the doubles point by winning the previous two matches.
In No. 3 singles, Hyotte defeated Noble 6-1, 6-2. Soon after Hyotte’s victory, Bajin defeated Collier 6-0, 6-2.
This victory was Bajin’s first action in her senior season after coming off numerous injuries.
Ajilore won in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 to give Harvard the fourth and final point needed for victory.
Martire, ranked as the nation’s No. 56 player, did not finish her match against sophomore Marissa Limsiaco in the No. 1 slot. She was leading 6-4, 5-3 when the game was pulled. Freshmen Cao Minh and Chen were also winning their matches when Harvard declared victory over Army.
Harvard squeaked out a victory over Ivy league rival Columbia 4-3 in the second match of the day.
Martire defeated Kristin Martinez 6-3, 6-4; Bajin defeated Shelly Mittel 6-4, 6-3; and Cao Minh edged Iana Dimkova 6-3, 6-5.
In doubles play, the teams of Bajin-Martire and Hyotte-Ajilore both posted victories.
Both Bergman and Wang saw their runs in singles competition cut short this weekend.
Bergman defeated junior Urska Jurich of Missouri 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, to advance to the tournament’s round of 16.
The second-year phenom faced off against the No. 5 seeded Sara Walker, a UCLA senior. Walker won two close sets from Bergman, 6-4, 6-4, to advance to the next round, eliminating Bergman. Walker also bounced Bergman out of last year’s NCAA Championships.
“It was a matter of a couple of big points,” Bergman said. “I didn’t capitalize on enough and she [Walker] did.”
After defeating Amy Trefefen of Kentucky 7-5, 5-7 and 6-4, Wang cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over freshman Daria Panova of Oregon.
In her ninth match in six days of tournament action, Wang lost to Jien Jacobs, a sophomore from California, 6-1, 1-0 (ret.). Wang retired in the second set due to a back injury.
“I pulled my back muscle two rounds earlier in my match against Roels [from Kentucky] when I went for a drop shot,” Wang said. “I fell again the next day, which reinjured it. I was able to pull through until my last match. I lost my footwork in he first set, and in the second I had to stop.”
For the rising sophomore, the end result of the tournament was a disappointment, but nonetheless a satisfying overall performance.
“I would have liked to have done a lot better,” Bergman said, “but considering this was my first tournament back from knee surgery over the summer, I’m not terribly disappointed.”
For Wang, it marks another solid performance in only her second tournament.
Bergman and Wang will spend this week in Cambridge, resting up for the Omni Hotels Regional Championships, where they will reunite with their teammates. The tournament, hosted by Harvard at the Murr Center, runs from Friday the 25th to Sunday the 29th.
—Contributing writer John R. Hein can be reached at email@example.com.