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Harvard women’s tennis has shown that the future is bright, finishing with a 13-6 record and concluding the season on a four-match win streak behind stellar play from four freshmen.
Freshman Amy He stepped into the No. 2 singles spot for the Crimson this year and played her way to a 16-9 overall record and a spot on the All-Ivy second team.
Fellow rookies Hai-Li Kong and Amanda Lin went undefeated in conference play at the No. 4 and No. 6 singles spots, respectively. Kong finished the year 21-5 overall while Lin finished at 26-3 on the season. Lin and Kong were also voted MVPs by the team for their play throughout the year.
“I think with Amanda, Amy, Hai-Li, it just speaks to their effort in practice because everything paid off in their matches,” Harvard coach Traci Green said. “It speaks to the strength of that class. They were learning on the spot, and they did a great job for us this year.”
Though rookies were an integral part of the winning season for Harvard, they were not the sole reason behind the Crimson’s success. One has to look no further than co-captains Kristin Norton and Hideko Tachibana to see this to be true.
Tachibana finished the year 16-10 playing No. 1 singles for Harvard and earned first-team All-Ivy honors. Norton, meanwhile, finished 13-8 on the year while playing the No. 3 singles spot for the Crimson. The senior co-captains also combined to go 9-5 as doubles partners and finished second at the Columbia Invitational in the doubles A flight. Despite their individual successes, this year’s senior class was the first class in the program to graduate without capturing an Ivy League title since 1983.
“We are really going to miss our senior captains a lot,” Green said. “They have given a lot to our team, and their energy and spirit will definitely be missed. They have worked very hard, and we will miss their vocal support in practice.”
Tachibana and Norton were not the only Harvard players to find success at the Columbia Invitational, which served as the first match of the year for the team on Sept. 14. Lin won the singles C flight and fellow rookie Crystal Yen won the singles D flight.
The biggest win for the Crimson this year came April 21 against then-No. 35 Yale. The Bulldogs came into the match undefeated in the Ivy League. Harvard won, 5-2, and was the only Ancient Eight team to defeat the eventual champions.
“One of our highlights this season was beating Yale, which was a huge accomplishment because it has been a couple of years since we beat them,” Tachibana said. “In terms of how much we fought and put everything on the line, we really just exceeded expectations across the board this year, so I am very proud of our team and the way we competed this year.”
Once again, it was a rookie that rose to the occasion for the Crimson, as He battled off two match points against opponent Madeline Hamilton before eventually winning, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(7), to clinch the victory for Harvard.
The Crimson started the day off strongly by taking the doubles point, with Tachibana and Lin winning at No. 1 and Norton and sophomore Sylvia Li winning at No. 2. Harvard also earned wins at the No. 4, 5, and 6 singles spots from Kong, Li, and Lin, respectively, to knock off the Bulldogs.
He’s win to clinch the match is representative of what the four freshmen did for the team all season.
“[The freshmen] didn’t really have time to transition to college tennis because as soon as they joined the team, they had to become an integral part,” Tachibana said. “I think they were able to come in and play really well, and they held up the team through a lot of really tough times.”
Having played in such high-stakes matches this season should only help the talented freshman class moving forward.
“I’m very proud of how resilient we were as a team during the Ivy season in general,” Green said. “Each match, we got stronger and stronger and learned something new. It was very important because we were a very young squad, and it was great to see that development at the end of the season. It was fun to be a part of this team’s journey.”
—Staff writer Ty Aderhold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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