It doesn’t get much closer than the Harvard women’s tennis team’s (2-3) 4-3 loss to the Boston College Eagles (5-0, 1-0 ACC). Seven tiebreakers. Four third sets. Four final sets decided by tiebreakers. When matches get tight, like they did on Saturday, it can be difficult to separate an individual performance from what’s happening on the other courts.
“When the match gets close it is incredibly important that you focus on your match because you don’t want what is happening with other teammates to take away your attention,” sophomore Sylvia Li said. “You don’t want the teammate playing a match next to you to be what you are focusing on.”
After dropping the doubles point, the Crimson split the first two singles matches. Freshman Amy He scored a 6-3, 7-6 (11) victory over Boston College’s Alex Kelleher in the second spot while Li lost a pair of tiebreakers on the third line. All four singles matches went into the third set, with the Eagles pulling out three-set victories at the first and sixth lines as co-captain Hideko Tachibana and freshman Crystal Yen fell, 4-6 and 6-7 (5) in the third set, respectively.
“We always have a fun rivalry when we play Boston College,” coach Traci Green said. “The match came down to the wire and it was pretty back-and-forth the entire way through. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way. Each match was very close. We fought extremely hard and I feel like we competed at a solid level and we just came up unlucky in a couple of tiebreakers.”
Harvard continued its rotation at the doubles position, moving Tachibana and He up to the first line, where they lost in a tiebreaker, 7-8 (5). Freshman Hai-Li Kong and junior Natalie Blosser played together for the first time this year, falling, 3-8. At the third line, Li and junior Hannah Morrill scored Harvard’s lone doubles victory—capitalizing on an early break to get an 8-5 victory. Despite the loss, Tachibana said she was happy with how the team competed—a quality that will be important as it heads into Ivy League matchups.
“I’m encouraged by the strong determination of our players,” Tachibana said. “The Ivy League is looking really tough and it will come down to clinchers, and often times who wins those matches isn’t based on pure talent but who can push past their nerves and get the victory. It’s good to see that we have a lot of fighters on the team. It was great to see everyone fighting for the very last point.”
Green said that the team views its non-conference schedule as preparation for its Ivy League schedule. The Crimson will play between two and four freshman in any given match depending on the health of the team—on Saturday, co-captain Kristin Norton and freshman Amanda Lin were out with injuries—and Green said each match is a learning experience for the young squad.
“We think of all of our matches as part of preparation for Ivies so we want to make sure we get in coaching in each and every match, whether it is close or not close,” Green said. “You want [the freshmen] to learn to think on the run and ultimately that will make them more confident at key moments in matches.”
After winning its first match of the season, Harvard has struggled, losing three of its last four against top-tier opponents. However, after playing its last three matches against Big Six Conference schools, the Crimson gets three smaller conference schools at home over the next two weeks. The Crimson will play five of its next seven matches at home.
Green said that after the Nemo snowstorm interrupted the team’s non-conference schedule, matches the past two weekends against BC and Maryland have been key in getting the team back in form. Green said that Harvard, who has dealt with injuries all season, will be a formidable squad when healthy.
“We have a lot of heart and a lot of fire. All we have to do is put it all together and get everybody healthy and we will be a tough team to beat,” Green said. “We got snowed out with the recent blizzard and this match really helped for the freshmen. Each and every match we are growing as a team and I am looking forward to our next match this coming weekend. This team is great to work with and it’s really fun to coach this team.”
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CrimsonDPFreed.