Playing at home for the first time in over two months, the Harvard women’s tennis team opened its spring season with a bang Monday, picking up a shutout victory against Rhode Island.
From the confines of the Murr Center, the Crimson (1-0) earned the doubles point and six straight singles victories en route to a 7-0 win over the Rams (0-1).
Coming off of a tournament-heavy fall schedule, Harvard was eager to try its hand at a dual contest. Prior to Monday, the Crimson had not competed since November, and the team has had a limited amount of practice time since returning from the winter break. In addition, Harvard’s three freshmen had yet to play in a match of this format.
“Since we have a lot of new freshmen on the team, dual matches are really new to them,” sophomore June Lee said. “So we wanted to make sure that we had a lot of high energy and [that] we were really positive and just pumping each other up the whole time.”
Freshman Ellen Jang-Milsten was one of the few players missing from the Crimson lineup. The rookie proved herself to be a key competitor with her fall tournament performances, the latest of which was an “A” flight singles championship at the Harvard Invitational.
But even without Jang-Milsten, the Crimson stepped out onto the court ready to deliver. At the first singles spot, Lee scored point after point, soundly defeating URI senior Kathleen Uy with a pair of 6-0 sets, giving herself a chance to watch the rest of her teammates from the sideline.
“[We want to] just be a close team, everyone getting along, just [being] positive,” Lee said. “That’s a big part of what helps us win.”
At second singles, freshman Nikki Kallenberg took on Rams’ junior Elizaveta Sadovnikova. Kallenberg, who was ranked the 11th best recruit in the class of 2014 by Tennis Recruiting, allowed Sadovnikova to earn just a single point, beating her opponent, 6-0, 6-1.
URI, whose roster does not feature any freshman, was beaten again and again by the young Harvard team. Kallenberg, paired with fellow rookie Annika Ringblom, notched another victory at the second doubles position. The first-years bested the team of Uy and Sadovnikova in the day’s closest contest, 8-4.
Ringblom’s other performance came at third singles, where she left opponent Jordan Rucks scoreless, giving the Crimson another victory in straight sets to finish the day with a 20-4 record.
Captain Sylvia Li attributes the success of the freshmen to their ability to balance their academic, social, and athletic lives, as well as the support system the team provides.
“On the court they have a little less pressure because they’re handling [themselves] off the court so well,” Li said. “Also, our coaches do a really great job helping make the transition into college tennis a lot easier. And everyone else on the team—they have all been very supportive.”
Sophomore Monica Lin picked up another point for Harvard, beating the Rams’ Anna Peacock in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.
Lin and Peacock had faced off once before in the first doubles match, but that result was hardly as close. Determined to set the tone for the match, Lin and Lee began the day’s doubles play by defeating the pair of Rucks and Peacock, 8-0.
Singles play continued with junior Amy He winning on court five, 6-0, 6-2. The junior was the only member of the Crimson not to compete in a doubles match as well.
Li occupied the sixth and final singles spot, producing the second sweep of the day, 6-0, 6-0. Earlier in the day, Li won her doubles match on court three alongside junior Amanda Lin, 8-0, finishing the day with a perfect record.
By day's end, Harvard won by a combined score of 96-14. But according to Li, the score was not the Crimson’s main focus.
“We want to come out as strong as possible but there is stuff that we will continue to improve on during the season,” Li said. “We already know what we’re doing well, what we can do better. As long as we improve throughout the season I know that by the time we make it to Ivies we can do really well.”
—Staff writer Isabel DeLaura can be reached at email@example.com.
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