Early in the Harvard women’s tennis team’s meeting with Cornell on Saturday afternoon, the two doubles matches on courts three and four seemed strikingly similar.
On court four, the Big Red sophomore duo of Dena Tanenbaum and Christy Kung were rallying back against Crimson sophomores Amanda Lin and Amy He, while on court three it was Harvard’s freshman pair of Spencer Liang and June Lee making a comeback against Cornell freshmen Monica Cusick and Alexandra D’Ascenzo.
For Harvard’s Lin and He, the challenge their teammates were putting up next door was all the motivation they needed to end the Big Red’s rally. After falling behind, 15-0, in a decisive 7-6 game, the Crimson strung together four consecutive points to take the match, 8-6.
“What really helped is that our first doubles match was still out there and fighting,” Lin said. “Looking over and seeing them being down and working their way back really motivated us to try to close out the match for them.”
In Harvard’s opening weekend of Ivy League play at the Murr Center, the doubles matches on Saturday energized the Crimson (9-5, 1-1 Ivy) to rebound after Friday’s 6-1 loss to Columbia (14-2, 3-0). The team did just that, and took down Cornell (7-6, 0-3), 6-1.
HARVARD 6, CORNELL 1
Captain Hannah Morrill and freshman Monica Lin set the tone for the day. A series of powerful overheads and down-the-line winners off the racket of Morrill extended their lead to 7-0 against Big Red senior Shannon Comolli and junior Lauren Frazier. Cornell challenged the Crimson with a series of long points in the final game, but it was not enough. A lob to the back-end of the court followed by a powerful down-the-line shot helped Morrill and Lin close out the match, 8-1.
“Morrill and M. Lin really stepped up big time for us and got us on the board,” Harvard coach Traci Green said. “Their energy was amazing. They had a really positive attitude and they executed.”
Morrill continued to set the pace in her singles match, handily defeating Comolli, 6-1, 6-4. Liang and A. Lin also notched comfortable singles victories, while He and junior Sylvia Li each bested her opponent in decisive tie-breakers to propel the Crimson to a 6-1 team victory.
“We took the loss against Columbia and used it to motivate us because we didn’t want the same result,” Lin said. “We tried to take it a little lighter, play a lot freer, and be really loud and supportive of our teammates, and I think it helped us execute our shots and close out matches.”
COLUMBIA 6, HARVARD 1
Nerves hindered the Crimson in its opening conference contest against No. 36 Columbia on Friday afternoon.
“Columbia is one of our biggest rivals, so this is the match that we had been working towards the whole year,” Lin said. “We went in really nervous, and we weren’t making all of our shots, so obviously the match didn’t turn out the way we wanted.”
The No.1 and 2 spots for both doubles and singles came up short for Harvard. Liang and Lee fell, 8-4. The freshmen were challenged by the powerful and consistent hitting of their opponents across the net, senior Bianca Sanon and sophomore Kanika Vaidya, who are ranked 14th among doubles teams in the nation. Morill and M. Lin lost by the same margin to the No. 30 Lions’ pair of junior Crystal Leung and freshman Tina Jiang.
Things did not improve for Harvard in singles play. Liang, M. Lin, and Lee all suffered quick defeats.
Morrill hung with senior Iona Alecsiu in the first set of her singles match, but ultimately fell short, 5-7. Alecsiu commanded the second set, 6-2, to secure the victory for the Lions.
The only bright spot of the match for Harvard was a three-set singles victory for A. Lin against Columbia senior Tiana Takenaga. After falling in the first set, Lin battled from behind to outlast Takenaga and earn the Crimson’s only victory of the afternoon.
Although the loss was a disappointing start to Ivy play for Harvard, especially since it came just after the Crimson knocked off a ranked opponent in No. 24 Houston, it is also a learning experience for the young squad.
“I am really hopeful that we can take the loss against Columbia and really look at the things that we could have done better,” Green said. “We really just want to be going one match at a time. We can’t prepare the same way every time, so it’s just trying to do the best we can in every single match.”