The Harvard women’s tennis team continued its strong preseason showing at the Air Force Invitational in Colorado Springs, Colo. this weekend. Each of the Crimson competitors made it to the semifinal rounds, with five players continuing on to the finals and two leaving as champions.
Harvard turned in its dominant performance in spite of the unique atmosphere that Colorado brings.
“I was really impressed to see our players adapt to the conditions in Colorado,” Crimson coach Traci Green said. “We were at a higher altitude where the ball was different, as were the overall conditions.”
“We didn’t really have any expectations going into [the tournament],” junior captain Samantha Rosekrans continued. “We were playing at a different altitude and in colder weather, so it was difficult to be prepared.”
But preparation did not seem to be a problem, as the Crimson fought through numerous three-set matches and comebacks after early set losses.
Leading the Harvard squad were freshmen Hideko Tachibana and Kristin Norton. Tachibana, who has been a major contributor for the team already and is still undefeated this season, won the B draw after defeating Anya Villanueva of the University of New Mexico (4-6, 6-1, 6-1), Erin Monson of the University of Utah (6-4, 4-6, 6-2), and Abbie Probert of the University of Colorado at Boulder (6-0, 6-7, 7-5).
Kristin Norton took D draw by beating out Franzi Steinhardt of Illinois State University (7-5, 6-4), Michala Jensen of the University of Colorado at Boulder (5-1, ret.), and Pavlina Smatova of the University of Oregon (7-6, 6-3).
“Kristin [Norton] played exceptionally well this weekend.” Green said. “She and Hideko [Tachibana] play well when it counts.”
The two champions are evidence of the large role played by the youth of this Crimson team, which consists mostly of underclassmen. But the success of the team is dependent on the level of leadership.
“Our captain, Samantha [Rosekrans], who’s only a junior herself, has done a great job and is a great leader,” Green said. “She does so well at keeping [the players] fired up, hungry, and ready to play.”
“We’re a young team, but we have talent,” Rosekrans added. “I’m really excited for this year.”
Optimism is the theme for the upcoming spring season.
“This weekend was a good opportunity to get a boost of confidence early in the season,” junior Agnes Sibilski said. “Fall season doesn’t really matter, but it definitely translates over to the spring...This tournament may be preseason, but it still shows our opponents that we’re a feisty team.”
Sophomore Holly Cao, Rosekrans, and Sibilski made it to the finals in the A, C, and F draws, respectively. Freshmen Sophie Chang and Louise Laciny advanced to the semifinals in the E and G draws.
Next up for the Harvard team is the USTA BJK National Tennis Center Invitational in Flushing, N.Y. this weekend.
“The Colorado tournament gave us more self-confidence going into this weekend’s invitational,” Rosekrans said. “It’s an Ivy match, so it will show us where we stand in conference and what we’re up against in the spring season.”
With performances such as the one in Colorado this weekend, and bolstered by young talent and strong leadership, this Crimson squad does seem to have a good season ahead of it.
“Stay tuned,” Rosekrans summed. “I think we’re a team to watch.”