Facing off against Middlebury, Seton Hall, and the University of Rhode Island, over the weekend, the Harvard women’s tennis team dominated its opponents across the board at home in the Beren Tennis Center during the Harvard Fall Scramble. They were most certainly not scrambled, as clean, crisp play owned the day, and the squad ended winning all three of its weekend bouts.
“I felt like we played some quality tennis,” freshman Neha Gupta said. “The best part was how we ramped up our energy and level of play each match. Even more so than dominating the competition it felt great to be able to apply what we were working on in practice in our matches.”
In the face of all of this, the Crimson squad still had time to give back to the local community during the heat of competition. According to sophomore Lexi Milunovich, hosting a clinic at the venue provided a moment of respite for the team.
“One of the highlights [of the weekend] was giving a mini clinic at Sportsmen's to kids during our rain delay on Saturday,” Milunovich said.
Playing without sophomore Jenna Friedel and captain Annika Ringblom due to injury for the first two days of the event, Harvard (3-0, 0-0 Ivy League) needed its younger players to step up in their first dual matches of them season. And step up they did. In its first two matches against the Rams (1-4, 0-0 Atlantic 10) and the Pirates (2-1, 0-0 Big East), Harvard finished 11-1 in singles and 4-2 in doubles.
Sophomore Irene Lu suffered the squad’s lone singles defeat in the first two days, 7-5, 6-1, while playing at the top position against URI sophomore Mihaela Codreanu. Sophomore Natasha Gonzalez, Gupta, and freshman Anna Li each tallied two victories in the format over the period with Gonzalez and Gupta’s wins both coming in straight sets. Lu won her remaining two matches to close out the weekend with a winning record.
Coming off an event in the Yale Bulldog invite, in which its singles performance was middling at best, Harvard produced a particularly promising result against the Pirates on Saturday. Each of the six matches were two-set sweeps in its favor and no Seton Hall player mustered more than three games in any of the twelve sets.
Doubles was not as dominant a format for the Crimson, as fellow sophomores Lu and Milunovich were the only players to triumph against Seton Hall, 6-3. Harvard, however, went undefeated against the Rams the day prior with three routine victories, 6-3, 6-1, and 6-2.
Continuing her unbeaten singles streak with three wins over the weekend, Gupta improved to 8-0 to begin her Crimson career. The Elk Grove, Calif. native credits her recent string of success to her consistent focus and supportive teammates.
“The college game is definitely faster, both in its scoring and the pace of the rallies, so I've really had to work on my footwork and ability to focus for every point,” Gupta said. “You definitely have to devote a lot of time to the team, so it's a good thing I can every single girl is fantastic, super fun, welcoming, and supportive. I couldn't think of negatives if I tried.”
With Friedel and Ringblom back in the line-up on Sunday against the Panthers, Harvard continued to roll. Ringblom blanked Panthers junior Molly Paradies, 6-0, 6-0, while Gonzalez, Gupta, Lu, and junior Erica Oosterhout also picked up wins against their respective Middlebury competitors. Even with Milunovich retiring by injury in her singles match, the Crimson went 9-1 across singles and doubles with its captain back in action.
“Annika [Ringblom] closed out the weekend really strong with a 6-0, 6-0 victory,” Gonzalez said. “Her positive presence on and off court always helps to bring up the team.”
With only two more events remaining on the fall calendar, Harvard looks to continue its strong play heading into ITA regionals in Philadelphia, Pa. next week and the spring season ahead.
“The fall is all about building for the spring,” Gonzalez said. “We got some good matches this past weekend that will help us get sharper for the season.”
—Staff writer Jackson M. Reynolds can be reached at email@example.com
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