Junior co-captains Hideko Tachibana and Kristin Norton led the way for the Harvard women’s tennis team in 2011-12. The pair finished second in the Ivy League Doubles Tournament and received All-Ivy recognition for their work on the singles court.
“Hideko and Kristin are both very special players and extremely hard workers,” Crimson coach Traci Green says. “Not only are they co-captains for the second time [next season], but they just bring so much energy and are a big part of why this team has become tremendously close—the closest team I’ve ever been a part of.”
Despite the performances of the dynamic duo, Harvard finished just 4-3 in the Ancient Eight, and 11-7 overall, good for a third-place tie with Columbia. If the Crimson is unable to capture the title next season, the class of 2013 would be just the second since 1983 not to win at least one Ivy League title.
“This will be the last year for Kristin, Camille [Jania], and I to win the Ivy League, so we’re going to be taking that very seriously and hopefully drive everyone to succeed,” Tachibana says. “The fact that this tennis program has had so much success in the past will give us even more incentive to do well.”
Green, who has been at the helm for five seasons—including the last Ivy League champion team in 2009—noted that the roster certainly had the talent to make a run at the conference title this year.
“Obviously we would have loved to have been able to compete for the Ivy title, and I think we had the ability to,” Green says. “But things didn’t quite go our way at the end of the season. We definitely had the opportunity, and that’s all you can ask for.”
All three in-conference losses came in a seven-day road trip from April 14 to April 20, as Harvard lost at Penn, Princeton, and Yale. The loss to the eventual champion Bulldogs was not close, but both matches with the Killer Ps ended 4-3, with the home teams narrowly edging out the Crimson.
But Harvard rebounded from the three-game skid to close the year with consecutive conference wins.
“After our very last match [against Dartmouth], our whole team was excited and pumped up for next season,” Green says. “That just speaks volumes to their character and willingness to put the work in preparation.”
Harvard has good reason to be excited for next season. Yale, which went undefeated in conference play, will certainly return as the preseason favorites, but the duo of Tachibana and Norton should prove formidable.
“Kristin is so enthusiastic and just pumps people up, and then Hideko is super talented and just plays with a will to win,” Green says. “You look at them playing, and they’re an immediate energizer on and off the court.”
The only senior lost to graduation is Samantha Gridley. Gridley, a five-star recruit out of high school, leaves the Crimson with a 41-38 career singles record and a 39-27 mark on the doubles side.
“Samantha brought so much focus to our program, and without her we would not have been able to do anything this season,” Green says. “She really brought a confidence and resilience to the team and definitely helped move our program to a better place.”
Only losing one senior and welcoming a talented freshman class, morale is high in the Harvard locker room.
“Samantha has been a huge inspiration to all of us,” Tachibana says. “I haven’t known Harvard tennis without her, and we’re all definitely going to miss her. She’s been an integral part of our team, and it’s going to be sad to see her go.”
“But we have four great incoming freshmen, and they won’t be able to replace her, but hopefully we can try and pick up where she left off,” Tachibana continues. “We ended the season with a really unified foundation that can only help us next year.”
Moving forward the team will continue to look towards a solid foundation of friendship as a basis for motivation and success.
“Everyone worked very hard, and they became a tight-knit family,” Green says. “They eat off each other’s plates—which I think is a bit weird—but they really feel like a family and it speaks volumes to how far we’ve come and how far we can go.”
—Staff writer Alexander Koenig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.