Crimson Defeats Minutewomen in Spring Opener

Karen Zhou

Junior co-captain Kristin Norton, shown above in earlier action, helped the Harvard women’s tennis team capture a 6-1 victory over UMass in its spring opener on Sunday, pairing with junior co-captain Hideko Tachibana to earn a doubles win against Yuliana Motyl and Chantal Swiszcz.

Within minutes of the start of singles play, all six players suiting up for the No. 63 Harvard women’s tennis team were winning their first sets, 1-0.

The scene was representative of what the day brought for the Crimson, which soundly defeated the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Sunday afternoon, 6-1. After sweeping all three doubles contests, five of Harvard’s six singles players won in two sets, giving the Crimson (1-0) its first win of the spring season.

“We knew that all the players [on UMass] were great fighters,” junior co-captain Kristin Norton said. “They came to our Harvard Invitational in the fall, and a couple of us played them and knew they had some strong singles and doubles players.”

Norton and fellow junior co-captain Hideko Tachibana kicked off the day with a doubles win at the No. 1 position, handily beating their opponents, 8-2. Norton and Tachibana, who are ranked No. 25 in the nation in doubles play, were in control throughout the match, going up 6-1. UMass (1-3, 0-1 A10) captured the eighth game, battling back in the tiebreaker to nab the win.

But Norton and Tachibana responded, holding UMass scoreless in the next game before closing out the match in the tenth.

“I think the key thing is our chemistry,” Norton said of her partnership with Tachibana. “We’ve been working really hard together as a doubles team, and we just know where each other is going to be on the court at all times.”

Meanwhile, sophomores Natalie Blosser and Hannah Morrill teamed up and turned in a convincing 8-1 win at the No. 2 spot.

With the first two doubles matches finished, the match at No. 3 carried on. After getting off to a 6-2 start, senior Sam Gridley and junior Camille Jania allowed the Minutewomen to take the next two games, which brought the visitors within two.

But Gridley and Jania were not ready to give the match to their foe. With the scoreboard showing 7-5 overall and 30-30 in the game, the duo rallied until Gridley hit a shot that landed just over the net and spun backwards, moving just out of reach of the UMass returner.

The match ended on an error from the Minutewomen, and the Crimson team swept doubles play.

Harvard rode the momentum into singles play, as each player on the home team claimed its first match.

Norton sped through her match at the No. 2 spot, winning 6-0, 6-1.

On the No. 1 court, Tachibana had a slightly tougher time with UMass sophomore Sonia Bokhari. Despite winning her first set, 6-1, the co-captain saw much closer play in the second.

Bokhari stayed close, relying on long rallies that seemed to tire the athletes on both sides of the net. But Tachibana closed out the match with a number of aces to grab the 7-5 win.

“What helped me a lot was maintaining a positive attitude through it all,” Tachibana said. “It’s really easy to get fazed by your opponent when things aren’t necessarily going your way, and I think at the end there I really just kind of pushed down and battled it out.”

Tachibana’s victory over Bakhari ensured a Harvard victory after Jania finished her opponent, 6-0, 6-2, at the No. 3 position minutes before.

No. 4 Gridley and freshman Sylvia Li, playing at No. 6, also earned a team point each for the Crimson, winning 7-5, 6-2, and 6-3, 6-4, respectively.

“It was a great way to gauge where we are in terms of the overall Northeast,” Tachibana said. “Our entire team played really well...and it’s a great start for better things to come.”

—Staff writer Taryn I. Kurz can be reached at