After kicking off the season over a thousand miles away in Gainesville, FL last weekend, the Harvard women’s tennis team (2-1) returned home Saturday to play its official home opener against UMass (2-1).
Showing no ill effects from a tough 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Gators its last time out, the Crimson dominated the Minutemen in all phases of the game, cruising to a 7-0 victory.
Harvard did not drop a single set to UMass, with most of the matches ending in timely fashion. But for a while, it certainly did not look like the team would earn a clean sweep.
Freshman Spencer Liang, playing at first singles, found herself trailing 5-0 in the opening set to UMass senior Sonia Bokhari. But with her back against the wall, the freshman mounted a comeback.
“Even though I went down pretty quickly, I knew that I wasn’t playing my best,” Liang said. “I knew that if I just stepped it up, I would be able to compete with and possibly beat this girl.”
Liang battled her way back into the match, taking five straight games against the UMass star. On Bokhari’s ensuing serve, Liang went up 40-15 with a chance to break, but the Bokhari also showed some resiliency of her own. After surrendering much of the match’s momentum, Bokhari fought back to take the game and reclaim the lead.
“After I lost that game and she went up 6-5, I was kind of like ‘No, did I come back for nothing?,” Liang said. “But I still fought hard and ended up saving set point.”
After fighting off Bokhari’s aforementioned set point, Liang persevered and won her service game to force a tiebreak. She quickly took a 3-0 advantage in the ‘breaker before Bokhari pulled up with an injury on one of her serves and was forced to retire.
Court three also featured a match that would go down to the wire. After winning the opening set 6-2, Crimson freshman June Lee needed to muster a comeback to defeat UMass sophomore Arielle Griffin. The freshman climbed her way out of a 5-6 deficit to force a tiebreak, which she went on to win, 7-3.
“I was feeling pretty confident [going into the tiebreak],” Lee said. “I wasn’t really nervous, and I knew that if I just went for my shots that I would come out on top.”
Another freshman coming up with a solid performance was Monica Lin. Playing on Court two in between her rookie counterparts, Lin took down UMass senior Yuliana Motyl, 6-1, 6-2.
Harvard coach Traci Green said that she was very happy with the performance of the freshman trio at the first three singles positions.
“Our freshmen are showing a lot of poise right now which is very special at this time of the season,” Green said. “You never know what to expect with freshmen, but they are very poised and focused, and hopefully they can keep building on these matches for the rest of the season.”
In the other singles matches, sophomore Amy He defeated Jessica Podlofsky at the fourth position, 6-1, 6-2. At line five, captain Hannah Morrill only dropped one game to Chanel Glasper, winning 6-1, 6-0. In the line six match, sophomore Amanda Lin downed UMass’ Anna Woosley, 6-3, 6-1.
In doubles, the pairing of Lee and Morrill swept Bokhari and Woosley 6-0, while the He and Amanda pair nearly did the same, defeating Podlofsky and Glasper, 6-1. Monica and Liang were locked in a tight battle with Motyl and Griffin, trailing 3-4, but the match was halted as the Crimson had already seized the doubles victory.
“Doubles was really exciting today,” Green said. “We’re still a little bit rusty, but there were so many good things out there from all the teams we saw, and the energy was great.”
The victory for Harvard marks its sixth triumph over UMass in as many tries. Green was pleased with the way her team battled for the first time in front of the home crowd.
“This team has a lot of fight,” Green said. “I think they already know from the matches they’ve already played that they can come back from any position in the match.”
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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