While the weather in southern California was uncharacteristically cool during the Harvard women’s tennis team’s trip to the region, the squad’s red-hot play made up for it. The Crimson won all three matches, each of which was played outdoor under the California sun, to push its win streak to eight.
Harvard (12-5) has just one match before Ivy League play commences on the first day of April. The Crimson took the doubles point in two of the three matches and sophomore Erica Oosterhout and Annika Ringblom, who was playing close to her home in Palos Verdes Estates, picked up three singles wins on the week.
“Our focus from the very beginning has been on improvement and to keep the big picture in mind of understanding the process and how we want to get better each week,” Harvard coach Traci Green said. “Doubles was the thorn in our side but we’re really excited how our doubles is coming along.”
HARVARD 5, UC SANTA BARBARA 2
Saturday’s match got started much like how the rest of the team’s matches have begun during the squad’s recent hot streak. Harvard got on the board to start the day, claiming the doubles point for the second time on the trip against a Gauchos team (7-8, 1-0 Big West) that the Crimson defeated last season.
With its back against the wall after captain June Lee and Oosterhout fell at the top doubles spot, the freshman duo of Natasha Gonzalez and Irene Lu answered the call by edging senior Jaimee Gilbertson and junior Natalie Da Silveira. The doubles point would come down to Ringblom and sophomore Sabrina Xiong. The decisive match lived up to the hype, as the pair edged junior Amanda Atanasson and sophomore Stephanie Yamada, 7-6.
With the all-important doubles point in hand, Harvard would go on to win four of the six singles showdowns. Senior Melissa Baker knotted the match at one after she topped Xiong, 6-4, 7-5, at the No. 6 spot. Gonzalez and Oosterhout made sure that UC Santa Barbara would never hold the lead on Saturday. Gonzalez downed fellow freshman Amit Lev-Ari in straight sets while Oosterhout finished the trip with a perfect singles slate following her 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 victory over junior Palina Dubavets at the top singles spot.
Ringblom clinched the win for the Crimson as her 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Da Silveira lifted Harvard to its eighth consecutive win and capped off a perfect road trip. Atanasson edged Lu while Lee topped Gilbertson at the No. 2 spot.
“We won a tough, knock-down, drag-out match against a very strong UC Santa Barbara squad,” Green said. “Every match was tightly contested and could have gone either way. It’s nice to see the team coming together and it’s also nice to see the improvement amongst our team and how everyone’s stepping up very nicely.”
HARVARD 4, CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE 0
After making quick work of Texas State earlier in the day, the Crimson made a concerted effort to outdo itself and was able to win all four of its matchups with Cal State Northridge (6-6, 2-2 Big West). Oosterhout and Lee won at the top doubles spot while Gonzalez and Lu followed suit. Already trailing 1-0, Cal State Northridge did not stand a chance in singles play.
“I think we’ve been building our confidence off of each match,” Lee said. “We started the season off a little rough...we weren’t winning the doubles point. After each match, we’re realizing that we’re right there [with top teams]. When we start winning matches and winning the doubles point, we’re starting to gain confidence and believing that we are just as good as these teams.”
Oosterhout, Lee, and Ringblom were the first three Harvard players to complete their singles matches to secure the Crimson victory. The trio was remarkably efficient, combining to win 36 of their 44 games. Ringblom was the most dominant, blowing the doors off senior Vivian Lin, 6-1, 6-0, at the fifth singles spot.
Oosterhout also had a shutout in one of her sets, topping senior Mickey Hsu, 6-4, 6-0, at No. 1. Lee bested sophomore Skyla Alcon, 6-2, 6-1.
HARVARD 4, TEXAS STATE 1
Oosterhout, Lee, and Ringblom were dominant at the top three spots against the Bobcats (4-8). All three matches went just two sets. Oosterhout began her birthday eve by topping senior Pippa Carr, 6-2, 6-1. Ringblom was similarly efficient, needing just 15 games to beat sophomore Julia Navajo-Melendez. Lee edged her two younger teammates while playing at the second singles spot. The West Windsor, N.J. native made quick work of sophomore Ana Perez in dominating fashion, 6-1, 6-1.
Sophomore Isabel Jasper appeared in her lone match of the trip on Wednesday, teaming up with Gonzalez in doubles action. The duo was unable to get past the Texas State duo of Eva Dench and Alex Jones in what was the only blemish on the day for Harvard.
“We’re just trusting what we’ve been doing in practice more and the way it comes down to those big tiebreak matches,” Lee said. “I don’t think we’re panicking like we used to. We’re treating each match as if it were an Ivy match because we know it’s prepping us for Ivies so I think that mentality is also helping us.”
—Staff writer Stephen J. Gleason can be reached at email@example.com.
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