When Harvard received its invite to the William & Mary Invitational Tournament--an individual tournament where teams are invited to bring their top eight players--it may not have known what it was getting into.
The tournament features many of the best women's tennis teams in the nation including Duke, Texas, Kansas and the host team. The stiff competition combined with a completely revamped Harvard roster made it a tough weekend for the Crimson squad.
In the won-loss column, Harvard did not fare well, winning zero first-round matches. However, there were extenuating circumstances that ease the blow.
In this, the first competition of Harvard's season, the story was a top eight roster consisting of four freshmen, one sophomore and three upperclassmen. The fresh faces are both a blessing and a curse, holding much potential, but needing to gain experience at the college level.
"This is a much different scenario than when I came here as a freshman," said junior Vedica Jain. "The freshmen have lots of questions. They need to learn what it means to play as a team. That's the main thing we can teach them."
The highest ranked freshman was Andrea Magyera, who played in the second flight of the tournament. Not surprisingly, Magyera fell in the first match of her collegiate career. What was unusual was the unfortunate manner in which the loss occurred. Having dropped the first set 3-6 and down 1-4 in the second, the freshman was forced to retire due to an injury.
The other members of the freshman class faced similar struggles. In the third singles flight, Fleur Broughton lost her first round match 3-6, 0-6 to William & Mary's Iesayca Arthur. However, Broughton bounced back with a 6-3, 6-2 win in the loser's bracket, which led to a match with the top seed in the flight, Duke's Ioana Plesu.
Broughton asserted herself against the Blue Devil, winning the first set tiebreaker (7-4). The second set also went to a 'breaker, with the freshman on the short end of a 7-1 score. The third set went to Plesu with relative ease, 6-2.
In the fourth flight, Sarah McGinty and Jennie Timoney represented Harvard's class of 2002.
The familiar faces fared a little better than the newcomers, but a nagging injury and a tough draw limited the success at the top of the roster.
One familiar face at the top roster for the upcoming season is senior Ivy Wang. Wang was respected enough to be seeded fourth in the tournament's top flight, but was hampered by a shoulder injury throughout the summer and the weekend.
In the first round, Wang fell in straight sets to Kris Sell from Kansas, 6-2, 6-1. Moving into the loser's bracket, Wang managed to take a first set tiebreaker from Syracuse's Shareen Lai and cruised in the second set for a Harvard victory. After the match Wang's shoulder acted up, forcing her to default her next match.
"[Wang] was not playing her top tennis," Jain said. "The injury is not serious, she just needs to strengthen it and take some time off. It has been bothering her all summer."
Jain herself played solid tennis at the start of the tournament, but her success was limited by a tough draw; Jain was matched up with the tournament's top seed--Martina Nedelkova from Virginia Commonwealth University--in the first round.
Jain's 3-6, 4-6 loss was a well-played contest in which the junior represented herself admirably before bowing out to one of the best players in the country.