FEMALE BREAKOUT ATHLETE OF THE YEAR RUNNER-UP: A New Partnership Blossoms

Anderson and O'Riain play their way to one of the best seasons in school history

Last spring, senior Melissa Anderson and junior Elsa O’Riain were elected co-captains of the Harvard women’s tennis team.

That partnership would not be in name only, as coach Gordon Graham named them Harvard’s No. 1 doubles team this fall, creating in the process a dual force that would take women’s collegiate tennis by storm.

Anderson, who hails from Australia, and O’Riain, who is from Ireland, immediately formed a chemistry on the court.

“We just clicked,” Anderson said. “We’re both from overseas, we’re both foreign, and we have games that complement each other. Elsa’s really aggressive up at the net, and I’m good at playing back.”

The superior season of the twin captains began in the fall, when Anderson and O’Riain captured the doubles title at the Cissie Leary Memorial Tournament. After falling to the nation’s No. 1 doubles team at the Riviera ITA All-American Championships, the pair won the Wilson/ITA Eastern Regional Championships, their second title of the fall.

“We’ve never really done this well in regionals, especially in doubles,” Anderson said after the win.

The win at the Eastern Regionals earned Anderson and O’Riain a berth in the prestigious 16-team field of the ITA National Indoor Championships, where they lost to the No. 2 seeded team in the second round.

“I’m pretty satisfied [with the fall season],” O’Riain said at the time. “It is a bit disappointing to end it like that, but then again we played four tournaments and lost [only] two matches, so something has to be going right.”

Anderson and O’Riain carried that momentum into the dual season, going 16-4, including a perfect 5-0 in Ivy play to help the Crimson to its fourth straight undefeated league season. That earned the pair a berth in the field of 32 at the NCAA doubles championship.

Although Anderson and O’Riain lost in the first round to a tough duo from Florida, their remarkable season will not soon be forgotten. The two were the first Harvard players to qualify for the ITA All-Americans since the mid-80’s, Anderson and O’Riain also were ranked No. 3 nationally entering the NCAAs, the highest ranking ever for a Harvard doubles team.

All told, it was a spectacular run for a duo that only joined forces for the first time at the beginning of the year.

—CALEB W. PEIFFER

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