A season of high expectations is about to meet its most important test.
The Harvard women's tennis team (11-11, 7-0 Ivy) will face off against Fresno State in the first round of its NCAA Regional tomorrow at William and Mary.
The No. 47 Crimson is in a tougher position than it has been in all year. Drawing a seed in the 33-48 group of the 64-team field, Harvard is up against the Bulldogs (22-6), who are ranked No. 21 nationwide.
Daunting as it may seem, the Crimson is hardly backing away from the challenge. In the first third of the season, Harvard faced a number of Top-25 teams in the nation that served to prepare it for this weekend.
The Crimson squared off against No. 8 Pepperdine, in addition to Baylor and Texas A&M, ranked No. 36 and No. 37 respectively. Though Harvard lost all three matches, it dropped 5-4 squeakers to both the Bears and the Aggies.
"We feel great about this weekend," said freshman Andrea Magyera." We have played several top teams this year, so we are ready for anyone. This is where our tough schedule will help us."
Coming off of its fourth Ivy League title in five years, and the 13th in the 19 years of Ivy League play, the Crimson is definitely excited. An extremely young team, Harvard has the opportunity to prove itself among the ranks of much older and established teams.
"We feel very confident in our play, and we have remained focused on our goal of winning the Ivies," Magyera said. "Now we will move on to our NCAA goal."
No matter what hand is dealt to Harvard, the Bulldogs will not go down without a fight. Boasting one of the top programs on the circuit, Fresno State is a force to reckon with.
In their fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regional, the Bulldogs claimed their first conference championship since joining the WAC in 1993 by defeating No. 29 New Mexico, 5-3.
The Bulldogs claimed many conference honors that will only add to their confidence this weekend. Coach Irene Harris was named WAC Coach of the Year, and freshman Kim Niggemeyer earned WAC Rookie of the Year honors.
Perhaps the most formidable contributor for Fresno State is senior Dora Dijilianova. In her 17th consecutive match victory, she carried her team over New Mexico with a win in No. 1 singles, propelling her record to 38-8 overall.
Formerly ranked No. 9 overall, a recent victory over third-ranked Marissa Irvin of Stanford last month bumped Dijilianova to her highest slot nationwide ever, No. 6.
However, the Crimson certainly has a number of powerhouses on its side of the court.
Since Captain Ivy Wang's shoulder injury earlier this season, many of Harvard's key players have been rotated through the No. 1 position and have done an excellent job. If Wang does not play this weekend, it appears that junior Vedica Jain will once again step into the first position.
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