No. 39 Penn (15-5, 6-1 Ivy), winner of 22 straight Ivy matches entering Saturday, put the Crimson’s back against the wall by winning the doubles point and three of six first sets in singles. When Wang fell behind 7-6, 5-0 and allowed a double match point to Penn’s Shelah Chao, the Quakers were on the verge of taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the dual match.
But Wang never let that second Penn point appear on the scoreboard. Instead Harvard (17-3, 7-0 Ivy) earned an inspirational victory from sophomore Courtney Bergman at No. 1 singles and the momentum spread to the other five courts. Harvard never looked back as the Crimson secured its first Ivy championship since 1999 and an automatic NCAA berth.
“There was great energy out here, not just from the players, but the fans,” said Harvard coach Gordon Graham. “This is a group of real fighters and they just weren’t going to give up.”
Bergman turned to court No. 2 following her match to cheer on sophomore Susanna Lingman’s comeback from a set down. When opponent Nicole Ptak’s final shot clipped the net and dropped wide, giving Lingman the 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory, Bergman rushed over and embraced her doubles partner. With a 2-1 lead, the momentum was back in the Crimson’s favor.
By the time freshman No. 6 Melissa Anderson claimed the third Harvard victory in three sets, the Crimson was in control on every court. Almost all attention turned to captain Sanja Bajin at No. 5, where she was on the verge of clinching not only the Ivy title on Senior Day, but also the only Harvard undefeated season at singles on record.
Bajin’s opponent, Caroline Stanislawski, did not let the championship point come on the first try. But on the final point, Bajin fired a passing shot on her backhand and Stanislawski was helpless to reach it. Soon after, the shirtless hordes in the stands resonated the message that was clear from the 4-1 tally on the scoreboard—“Ivy champs.”
After sophomore No. 3 Alexis Martire closed out her 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win just moments after Bajin, all attention turned to Wang as she completed her improbable comeback.
Graham, replete with awe after the match, praised his team’s ability to bounce back after a flat showing in the doubles by winning four three-set matches en route to the singles sweep.
“In between the doubles [we said], ‘Everybody take care of their match and we can win all six matches,’ and yet it sure didn’t look like that was going to happen, did it?” Graham said. “The way the matches were going, I was [thinking] just give me four anyplace. [The comeback] is a real testament to this team. They continue to really impress me.”
Wang Looks to the Moon
Of the three Harvard losses in first sets yesterday, Wang’s 7-6 (14-12) defeat at No. 4 was the most harrowing. She led 6-3 in the tiebreak but squandered three set points. She fought off five set points from Chao before gaining another, which she also wasted before dropping the set.
“I was so mad that I just like didn’t even want to play any more—I just wanted to quit and retire or whatever,” Wang said. “I had so many set points but, I don’t know, I just couldn’t hit them. On the last one I just decided to go for it on her shot and it was a stupid shot.”
Wang’s attacking strategy in the second set utterly failed as Chao responded to her pace and went up 5-0. Wang then turned to a much simpler goal—stick it out as long as possible.
“I didn’t want my other teammates to see that I’ve already lost, because then it would be so much closer and so much more pressure for them,” Wang said. “We’d be down one hope.”
Wang started moonballing—lobbing her shots high into the air to waste time. To her surprise, she started winning. At the time, she recalled an Andre Agassi match where he pulled out a comeback after he started moonballing.