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The month of March is traditionally a time of transition in amateur and professional sports. Harvard 5 Florida int'l 4 Harvard 2 Miami 7
College basketball's March Madness signals the move from league play into tournament play. Professional baseball holds spring training as a conditioning session between the off-season and regular season. And this year the Harvard Women's Tennis team headed to Florida in preparation for the spring outdoor season.
"The trip to Florida served as a barometer to see if we are comparable to teams that are a level up from the ones we've played," said junior co-captain Kelly Grant.
The 46th-ranked Crimson narrowly defeated 50th-ranked Florida International University, 5-4, Sunday and then lost to 27th-ranked University of Miami, 7-2, Monday afternoon in a rain-abbreviated match.
The team's triumph against Florida International University included wins at second singles by freshmen Mylin Torres, and Gabriela Hricko at first and third singles, respectively.
At fifth singles, sophomore Rona Mayer defeated her opponent, as did Grant at sixth singles.
Torres and Gina Majmudar provided the decisive margin of victory with a win at third doubles.
"To pull out a win on the first day against Florida International University was a pretty gutsy performance," coach Gordon Graham said. "It was a hectic day and the team responded really well."
The University of Miami provided the team's next challenge.
"When we went to play Miami, we weren't used to teams that were so intense," Torres said. "It was a different look at a different team than ones we were used to."
The play of Torres at second singles and junior co-captain Kate Roiter at sixth singles provided the only two victories on the day for the Crimson.
Especially troublesome during the Crimson's Florida trip was the doubles play.
"The biggest area that we need to improve on is our doubles play," Graham said. "We played six doubles matches and won one of them. We're coming into tougher competition, and the teams we're playing are going to be better with their doubles than the teams we faced so far, with the exception of Miami."
Although the Crimson split this weekend's matches, the chance to play outdoors was as important as the final results.
"It [the Florida trip] can't be anything but a positive experience because it gives us a better idea of how to adjust to playing outdoors," Graham said.
"Playing outdoors will help us a lot for spring break," Roiter said. "We have to get used to the sun and the wind."
Between the wind and the rain, the Florida weather became a third opponent.
"No one seemed to have any rhythm outside because the wind was really bad," Torres said.
The Crimson heads to California during spring break for its second outdoor road trip. It will face North-western, San Diego, UC-Santa Barbara, UCLA and Fresno State in an effort to strengthen its chances at a national tournament bid.
Of those teams, only Fresno State--which is ranked 46th in the nation--is ranked behind the Crimson. The Bruins are ranked seventh, and they feature two of the top ten individual players in the country.
"We're going to have to beat some teams that are ranked highly in the nation to qualify for NCAAs," Roiter said.
Although Harvard's sojourn to the Sunshine State was more stormy than it had expected, the Crimson hope the bad bounces and bad weather will prepare them for the competition it will face out west.
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