After experiencing some growing pains with a young squad, the future looks bright for the Harvard women’s tennis team. While the Crimson struggled in conference play, finishing fourth in the Ivy League, the team closed out the season with an 11-8 overall record and victories against three ranked opponents to end the year seeded 53rd nationally.
“I’m really proud of the way our team came together this season,” Harvard coach Traci Green said. “We played a lot of tough competition and really found our stride towards the end of the season. Unfortunately, some of those close matches didn’t go our way, but we learned a lot, and we really set ourselves up nicely for next year: we have a national ranking, and we also had some individual success.”
Harvard’s most impressive victory came on Feb. 21, when the Crimson stunned 11th-ranked Clemson with a 4-3 victory to earn the program’s first ever win over a top-15 opponent under Green.
With her team facing a 3-0 deficit and first set losses in three of the top four singles matches, freshman June Lee provided the momentum shift for Harvard, easily dispatching her opponent in two sets. Her teammates then rose to the occasion, as the Crimson rattled off four straight wins to pull off the comeback victory against the Tigers.
“It was an amazing comeback,” Green said. “Everyone was energized and enthusiastic all the way through and believed all the way…. I’ve never seen a match like that in my life, to be down by so much and come back against a very good team.”
The Crimson owed much of its success to the impressive play of its freshman class. Spencer Liang, Monica Lin, and Lee competed in the top three singles positions, with Liang remaining in the top spot the entire season. Lin also proved to be a force in the second slot, where she owned a 13-4 mark in dual action.
“Our freshmen were very talented,” Green said. “They sort of propped us up most of the season. They did run into some bumps along the way; our upperclassmen had to lead the way from time to time, but we’re looking for more good things out of them next year.”
After a stellar freshman campaign, Amy He played most of the year at fourth singles behind her younger teammates. The sophomore thrived in the fourth spot, leading Harvard in Ivy League play with a 6-1 record while posting an 11-4 overall mark on her way to being named the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Despite the flashes of brilliance from the Crimson’s younger players, Harvard struggled in Ivy League play at the close of the season. The team dropped four matches, including its last two, to conclude the season with a 3-4 conference record and fifth-place finish.
There were bright spots even amidst the struggles, however, such as the team’s hard-fought win over Penn immediately after a tough loss to Princeton.
After going back and forth all match, senior captain Hannah Morrill rallied in the third set to grab a 7-6 victory off the tiebreaker and clinch the win for Harvard.
“Hannah was our senior captain, so that’s a significant loss for us,” Green said. “She surprised us a couple times this year where her singles actually made a jump. She clinched quite a few matches for us in those 4-3 matches…. [She] will be a loss for us, but I’m very confident that our new captain coming in will be able to fill her shoes.”
With Morrill the only senior graduating from the Crimson’s starting lineup and the freshmen having gained a year of experience under their belts, the team hopes to build off of its successes this season to accomplish even more next year.
“Everyone really came together as a team and fought really hard this year, and we are starting to set new goals for ourselves,” Lee said.
“We definitely want to win Ivies, but we want to look at the bigger picture, what standards and goals that we’re setting in practice,” she added. “If we set high goals and have the right mindset in practice, we’ll be able to execute in matches. That’s definitely our main goal, and the results will come.”
—Staff writer Glynis K. Healey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.