If you're a fan of matches that are over before they begin, I would advise against following the Harvard women's tennis team. The Crimson remained unbeaten in conference play with a pair of 4-3 wins, edging out Brown on Friday indoors in Providence before topping archrival Yale outside at the Beren Tennis Center two days later.
Following its performance over the weekend, Harvard (15-6, 3-0 Ivy League) moved into sole possession of first place in the Ivy League with four matches to play. It was the Crimson’s first road win over the Bears (11-6, 2-1) and the team’s first home victory over the Bulldogs (7-12, 0-3) since 2013. The 3-0 start to Ivy League play is Harvard’s best since 2011.
“Every match has been 4-3 and it really makes practice that much more intense,” Harvard coach Traci Green said. “We know the matches are going to be tight, which makes our practices tough every day. We have the mindset of preparing for every match like it’s going to be 4-3.”
HARVARD, 4, YALE, 3
The Brown-Yale weekend always presents a strange scheduling situation for Harvard. While the team’s other two 2-match Ivy League weekends have contests on consecutive days, the annual weekend series with the Bears and Bulldogs feature a home and away match with an off-day in between.
The extra day of practice appeared to benefit the Crimson early on. Harvard secured the doubles point for the second consecutive match. Captain June Lee and Erica Oosterhout cleaned up at first doubles, winning all six games over Tina Jiang and Elizabeth Zordani. Junior Annika Ringblom and sophomore Sabrina Xiong continued the dominance, topping Caroline Lynch and Amy Yang, 6-1.
“It’s always a battle playing against Yale,” Green said. “It was probably the best doubles we’ve played all season. We were fortunate enough to carry that momentum into the singles and compete down the line at every position.”
Despite the early lead, the Crimson would lose three of the first five singles matches and allowed its guests to knot the match at three points apiece. The final result would come down to Harvard freshman Natasha Gonzalez and fellow first-year Opala Dhingra. With each player competing in just her third Ivy League match, Gonzalez proved cooler under pressure. The Houston native took her match’s first set 6-4 and closed out Dhingra with a 6-2 win in the second.
Gonzalez was not the only freshman to step up for the Crimson on Sunday. Another good sign for Green came in the play of freshman Lexi Milunovich. The Greenwich, Conn., native played in her first match in almost two months last weekend against Dartmouth and returned to doubles action on Friday. Milunovich picked up her first Ivy League singles win against the Bulldogs, edging junior Valerie Shklover in each of their two sets.
“Having Lexi back in the lineup has been a tremendous boost for our squad,” Green said. “She’s an energetic player with a lot of experience so we’ve really felt her presence. It’s been great to have her back.”
Sophomore Erica Oosterhout kept her perfect conference record intact after besting Yale junior Carol Finke, 7-5, 6-1. The win capped off an undefeated weekend for the Tampa native. Oosterhout is one of just twoIvy League players to have three wins at first singles.
Lee saw her nine-match win streak come to an end against the Bulldogs. The senior fell to Yang at second singles in a marathon match, 7-6, 5-7, 10-4. The fourth and fifth positions also went to the Elis. Freshman Irene Lu dropped her match to Jiang, 6-3, 6-4, while Ringblom was ousted by Zordani, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
HARVARD, 4, BROWN, 3
Brown and Harvard had met earlier in the spring at the ECAC Championships at the Murr Center. The Bears topped the Crimson, 4-1, back on Feb. 12, but Harvard won when it mattered. After losing the doubles point in the teams’ first go-round, the Crimson came out firing on Friday afternoon in Providence.
Harvard took the day’s first two doubles matches with Milunovich and Gonzalez capturing a victory in their first action as a pair and Ringblom and Xiong winning at No. 3. Despite holding the one-point edge early, Friday’s match with Brown proved to be yet another nailbiter for Green’s Cardiac Crew.
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