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Women's Tennis Falls Narrowly to No. 41 William and Mary

By Leena Ambady, Contributing Writer

In its first match since returning home from an undefeated trip to California, the Harvard women’s tennis team fell to No. 41 William and Mary on Sunday morning at the Murr Center. The narrow 4-3 defeat was the team’s third consecutive loss to the Tribe (8-9, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) and cut short the Crimson’s eight-match win streak.

“It was a super exciting match, a thriller to the the very end,” Harvard coach Traci Green said. “I’m really proud of the way our gang fought out there.”

It was a close contest from the very beginning, as the Crimson (12-6) split its first two doubles matches. Captain June Lee and sophomore Erica Oosterhout notched a 6-4 win in the first doubles position, improving to 13-8 on the season. The third doubles pair of sophomore Sabrina Xiong and junior Annika Ringblom was unable to follow the lead of Lee and Oosterhout, falling 6-3 to William and Mary’s junior Cecily Wuenscher and freshman Natalia Perry.

“This was really good preparation for the Ivy League season,” said Green, commenting on the narrow loss and the back-and-forth nature of the day’s matches. “Every match is going to be close, and now we’re going to be ready for that.”

The doubles point then came down to the No. 2 doubles duo of freshmen Natasha Gonzalez and Irene Lu. After tying 6-6, the pair began a long, hard-fought battle in the tiebreak, overcoming a 4-2 deficit to even things up at four. From there, the Crimson traded sets with the Tribe’s Ekaterina Stepanova and Olivia Thaler, with three lead changes before Harvard ultimately fell 10-8 in the tiebreak.

“The whole team fought really hard,” Oosterhout said. “It’s definitely difficult going into singles knowing we’re already down a point and have to win the next four matches, but we knew we could bounce back if we had to.”

The team almost did take four of the six singles matches, but came up one short against a ranked William & Mary team. In the second position, Lee battled back from a 3-0 deficit to win her first set 6-3, and followed it up with a dominant 6-2 second set, adding to her team-leading 18 victories on the season.

Gonzalez also made her presence known with a commanding 6-4, 6-2 win over the Tribe’s Lauren Goodman at the fifth position. The Crimson’s final singles victory came from sophomore Sabrina Xiong, who made quick work of William and Mary junior Maria Groener, completing her sixth win of the season, 6-3, 6-2, at the No. 6 slot.

Despite these promising victories, Harvard dropped its other three singles matches. Ringblom was defeated 6-4, 6-4 in the third singles position, squandering a 4-1 lead in the second set. Lu, who leads the team in winning percentage, was unable to add another tally for her team, falling to the Tribe’s Rosie Cheng 6-3, 6-3 in the fourth doubles position.

The result of the match game down to the first singles, with both teams coming over from the other courts to watch. Oosterhout lost her first set 6-3, but managed to win the second set 7-5 after trailing 2-0. The Tampa native mounted yet another comeback in the tiebreaker, cutting the 5-1 deficit to 5-4, but was unable to hang on in the tenth game, falling 6-4 in a close final set, the last one before Ivy League play kicks off next Saturday.

“We lost 4-3, but there’s no shame in that when everybody works hard,” Oosterhout said. “Our doubles is looking strong, everybody is playing well, and as long as we stay healthy, I think we have a good shot [to win the Ivy League].”

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