After starting off the season with its first shutout opener since 2010, a 7-0 blanking of Cleveland State University, the Harvard women’s tennis team returns to the court this weekend with matchups against William and Mary (3-1) on Friday and Kansas State (0-0) on Sunday.
“We’ve only been practicing about two weeks so it’s been really early but everyone is doing a great job on court,” Crimson coach Traci Green said. “Right now we need to just get some more matches under our belts. We’ve been practicing hard and the next phase is match play. Once we have that under our belts, we should be ready to move forward and improve.”
Last year, the Crimson snapped a 19-match losing streak to the Tribe with a 5-2 victory. This year, the Tribe come in after its most impressive victory of the season, a 4-3 comeback victory over 19th-ranked Mississippi. William and Mary’s only loss this season came to No. 3 Duke. Harvard and Kansas State have never played each other. Green expects both teams to provide stiff tests for the Crimson.
“Overall, we always try to play a strong schedule and January, February, and March to prepare us for the Ivy season in April,” Green said. “Our goals are to improve over the next few months so that we can be prepared and compete for the Ivy title in April and hopefully compete at the NCAA tournament at the end of the season.”
After dealing with sickness and injuries, the team has constantly adjusted its doubles teams to fit changing lineups. The team has accumulated a 23-13 total record in doubles through the flux at the position. However, the team’s most successful doubles team—co-captain Kristin Norton and freshman Amy He—have only played four matches together, posting a 4-0 record.
Co-captain Hideko Tachibana, who has been a fixture on the team’s No. 1 doubles team all semester and plays top line for the team in singles, said that the team has focused on establishing rhythm with a rotating lineup.
“The focus has been the doubles in practice,” Tachibana said. “We’ve tried a lot of different combinations and we’ve been rotating people in and out. In this next match, we will have a completely different lineup than we’ve had in the past.”
Amidst all the turnover—which includes four freshmen who all played in the Crimson’s top six against Cleveland State—Green said that Norton and Tachibana have been key in steadying the team and keeping it focused on its goals, which include winning the Ivy League title.
“Our captains have been fabulous this season,” Green said. “It’s their second season being co-captains and they have learned a lot from their first season as co-captains and we are very fortunate to have them. It’s their last year and we’re going to make the most of it. They’ve taken every day to make sure that they leave a long-lasting legacy for our tennis program.”
Tachibana said that the freshmen have been key to the team’s early success. According to the Austin, Texas native, the culture around the team has changed—with the focus more on the final results instead of how the team plays during the match.
“I would say that there is a lot desire to win this year,” Tachibana said. “Usually in team meetings, we talk about our goals and this year we are more focused on outcome goals whereas last year it was more focused on performance goals. Everyone is really focused on the Ivy League title and that’s really great to see.”
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at email@example.com.