Co-Captain Hideko Tachibana, shown above in earlier action, and her teammates fell to William & Mary despite winning the crucial doubles' point.
Over the weekend, the Harvard women’s tennis team (1-2) lost consecutive 5-2 matches to William and Mary (4-2) and Kansas State (1-0). In both matches, the Crimson trailed by only one after the first three matches but then was not able to close out tight matches, losing four of the last five matches both time. The two losses were the first of the year for Harvard.
WILLIAM AND MARY 5, HARVARD 2
In its loss to William and Mary on Friday, Harvard tried a variety of approaches in trying to claw out a couple of singles matches. However, after taking the doubles point, the team lost five of six singles matches as Crimson players varied their strategies in trying to battle back from early breaks of their serves.
On court five, junior Natalie Blosser blasted groundstrokes off each wing past her Tribe opponent but ceded break advantages in each set in a 6-3, 7-5 loss. On court three, freshman Amanda Lin sliced the ball low and away to keep her opponent off balance, venturing into net to keep points shorter, but was unable to put enough pressure on her opponent with her serve and forehand and fell 6-3, 6-2. Against a net-rusher who came in off both serves and returns, co-captain Kristin Norton consistently tried different passing combinations—working in both topspin lobs and flatter groundstrokes—but was broken at key junctures in each set in a 6-4, 6-3 loss.
"I thought it was a very solid second match of the season,” Harvard coach Traci Green said. “We competed really well for the second match of the season and I’m really proud of the heart that we showed today. Our team showed a lot of composure here today for early in the season and we won a lot of the big points we played in doubles.”
In doubles, the Crimson started slow before finishing strong. After Norton and freshman Amy He dropped line one doubles, 8-0, Harvard fought back from 6-6 ties in the two other matches to break their Tribe opponents and serve out the contests.
"In doubles I think that we all played pretty well,” sophomore Sylvia Li said. “Coach was in our ear telling us ‘believe, believe’ and I think we all did that pretty well.”
KANSAS STATE 5, HARVARD 2
The iconic moment of the Harvard women’s tennis match against Kansas State came at the end of the doubles session. With Harvard trailing 1-0 and down match point on court one, line three teammates co-captain Hideko Tachibana and junior Hannah Morill reached triple match point with a smash. As the two moved back to the baseline, they turned around to find their opponents walking off the court. The line one Wildcats unit had just won, giving the team the doubles point and depriving the Crimson of a chance to finish the match.
In irritation, Tachibana approached the net and called out “Really guys? Come on!” The moment of frustration, which rattled the team, boiled over into the singles, where the Crimson came very close but was denied at crucial junctures in each match.
At line one, Norton fought back from a set down and held four break points in the key seventh game of the third set. However, her opponent proceeded to save every point and broke Norton quickly, subsequently holding to secure the third set, 6-3. At line three, Li battled back after losing the first set 6-0 and held a break lead in the second set before being broken twice, losing 6-4.
Harvard’s most unorthodox player—freshman Crystal Yen—lost only three games on Friday in defeating William and Mary junior Sydney Smith, but fell Sunday, 6-2, 6-4, to an opponent who was willing to play Yen’s game.
Yen typically keeps her opponents off balance with high topspin and relentless consistency, but while Smith was frustrated into frequent errors off both wings, her Sunday opponent matched Yen stroke for stroke in 50-ball rallies that led to a 90-minute first set.
“Crystal is a very deceiving player and a very annoying player to play,” Green said. “She’s very fast and can get everything back and sometimes she can give you no pace and sometimes she can give you a lot of pace. Crystal is a very hard worker and she never gives up. When you have someone like that, you know you’ve got a good player.”
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.