While much attention was paid to the Head of the Charles Regatta results over the weekend, another Cambridge contingent was competing in its own clash.
Representing the Harvard women’s tennis team (3-0, 0-0 Ivy) in the ITA Northeast Regional Championships in Philadelphia, Pa., were sophomore Jenna Friedel, freshman Anna Li, sophomore Irene Lu, and captain Annika Ringblom. In the qualifier for the national tournament, Friedel, Lu, and Ringblom contended in the singles portion, while Ringblom and Li paired together in doubles.
The most impressive play from Crimson competitors came from Ringblom and Li, who reached the semifinals of the doubles bracket only to fall in a tiebreaker to the Dartmouth pairing of sophomores Racquel Lyn and senior Kristina Mathis on the contest's penultimate day.
“I am very proud of the way that Anna and I competed this weekend,” Ringblom said. “It is very exciting to have made it to the semi finals of regionals in Anna's first year of competition and my last.”
This group fared slightly better than last year’s group, as the pairing of junior Erica Oosterhout and former captain June Lee were only able to reach the quarterfinals in doubles. Oosterhout matched Lu’s accomplishments in singles. For the first time players in the event, the tournament proved a valuable experience.
“I'm very grateful I had the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia to participate in the tournament,” Friedel said. “I know I speak for everyone when I see it's an honor to represent Harvard on the road.”
Of the three Harvard singles participants, Lu was seeded the highest. The Laurel, Md., native’s 17/32 ranking provided her with the Crimson’s only first round bye. The sophomore used it to her advantage, as she proceeded to quarterfinals of the event–the furthest of any Harvard entrant.
Lu’s progression through the tournament began relatively smoothly. A 6-1, 7-6(5) victory over UMass Amherst senior Ana Yrazusta subsequently followed a 6-3, 6-2 sweep of Columbia sophomore Ali Pollack. However, the sophomore was ultimately outclassed in her next and final match at the Hamlin Tennis Center. Syracuse sophomore Miranda Ramirez efficiently played her way to a routine triumph, holding Lu’s tally to four total games over two sets.
Ringblom and Friedel had similar progressions to one another through their portion of the 128-player bracket. Both were knocked out of the tournament in their second-round matches in three sets, after having triumphed in their opening round bouts with identical 6-2, 6-2 margins. The senior and sophomore had entered the weekend with a collective 6-7 record in solo play this fall.
Doubles proved more fruitful for Ringblom in Philadelphia. Coming into the regional championships with a 5/8 seed, the duo of Ringblom and Li were expected to proceed deep into the tournament. The pair met those expectations and more.
They began by besting two Ancient Eight pairings from Yale and Columbia back to back. After subsequently topping Fordham’s Carina Ma and Estelle Wong as well as St. John’s Jaide Collins and Zofia Stanisz to reach the semis, more Ivy League competition lay ahead in the Dartmouth pair Lyn and Mathis.
The Crimson came out strong, handily winning the first set, 6-2. Ringblom and Li could not continue their momentum, however, as Lyn and Mathis dug deep and struck right back, claiming the second set, 6-1. In the resulting tiebreaker, the fourth ranked Big Green had just enough in the tank to finish off Harvard, 10-6.
Having completed their weekend matches, Ringblom and Li’s record as a pair improved to 7-1, a team leading mark. Ringblom credits their success so far this season to the complementary nature of their individual strengths.
“We have great chemistry as a doubles pair, with her success coming from her strong net game and mine at the baseline,” Ringblom said. “We communicate very well and I am excited to build off these great results before moving into our spring season.”
As the Crimson players continue to gain confidence playing as a team, their level of play should only improve heading into dual season.
“Overall, I think everyone is very happy with the direction [Harvard women’s tennis] is going in,” Friedel said. “With our main focus on the spring season, we want to make sure we're playing the right way and continuing to make adjustments to be ready to face off against Ivy League competition.”
—Staff writer Jackson M. Reynolds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org