Saturday’s two matches for the Harvard women’s tennis team could not have been more different, but both managed to end in the Crimson’s favor. After fighting tooth and nail with St. John’s in the day’s first showdown, Harvard dominated Bryant in the afternoon.
The victories over the Red Storm (9-2, 3-0 Big East), a team that has already beaten Yale and DePaul, and Bulldogs (0-7) pushed the Crimson’s win streak to three as the team (7-5) prepares for its final two matches before a spring break trip to Santa Barbara, Calif. Irene Lu led the charge for Harvard, winning both of her singles matches on the day.
“Irene has a lot of natural power and she’s still learning the game,” Harvard coach Traci Green said. “She started later compared to a lot of her other freshmen. Right now she’s working on her routine and her shot selection and that really paid off for her this weekend. She came out of the blocks firing and got us on the board early.”
HARVARD, 4, BRYANT, 0
After struggling to win the doubles point for the early part of the spring season, the Crimson appeared to be turning a corner against the Bulldogs. For the second time in three matches, Harvard won all three doubles matches to secure the all-important point. The team has won the doubles point in each of its last three matches.
“We’ve been focusing on doubles a lot at practice,” captain June Lee said. “When we’re playing points and doing drills, we’re setting certain parameters that we have to follow. We’ve really been focusing on being the team that makes the first move or mixes it up before the other team does.”
Sophomore Erica Oosterhout and captain June Lee, the Crimson’s top two singles players and its top doubles pair on Saturday, beat Bryant’s Marion Bouillin and Ryan Brown. The freshman duo of Lu and Natasha Gonzalez won all six of its games against juniors Ashanti Campfield and Nina Luiggi. Harvard first-year Jenna Friedel had the singles portion of the match off but teamed up with sophomore Isabel Jasper to down Stephanie Arroyo and Briana Leonard.
Only needing three more wins to clinch the match, the Crimson made sure got out of the Murr Center in a jiffy. Lee beat Bouillin for the second time, this time at second singles, 6-1, 6-1. Lu picked up her second singles victory of the afternoon by taking it to Luiggi in 12 of their 13 games. Gonzalez brought home the win for Harvard after blowing away Brown, 6-0, 6-3.
HARVARD, 4, ST. JOHN’S, 3
All three doubles matches to begin Saturday came down to the wire. Oosterhout and Lee fell at No. 1 to Jessica Livianu and Anna Morozova. The Crimson’s second and third duos were able to pick up the slack to give Harvard the win. Gonzalez and Lu did not show their age against the experienced European duo of Olaya Inclan Solis and Zofia Stanisz, 7-5. Friedel and doubles specialist Sabrina Xiong edged Stephanie Elgegren and Jaide Collins, 6-4.
“We’re doing a lot more fast-paced drills at practice and the biggest change is our mentality,” Green said. I think our players are a lot more aggressive-minded and our shot selection has definitely improved under pressure so those things have brought us closer [to where we want to be].”
One of the bigger storylines from the match with the Red Storm was the fact that Oosterhout lost her first match since Jan. 29 against Florida State. The Tampa, Fla. native had won her last five matches, all from the No. 1 spot and many coming in dominating fashion.
Gonzalez fell to Inclan Solis, 6-4, 6-1, at the No. 5, but two key wins from the lower part of the ladder ultimately lifted the Crimson. Lu dominated Stanisz, 6-1, 6-0, at the No. 4 while Xiong, playing in just her second singles match of the season remained unbeaten after topping Irina Preotescu, 6-1, 6-2.
“[She] had a really solid singles match,” Lee said. “She was feeling confident and she’s been working with the coaches. She’s been working really hard on improving her back hand and coming into the net and being aggressive so that obviously paid off and gave us a point there that we needed.”
Two of the morning’s six singles matches came down to the third set. After falling to Lee in the first set, senior Anna Morozova took each of the next two sets, 6-3, 6-3 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Friedel got revenge at No. 3 in her three-set duel, edging Elgegren, 6-2, 6-7, 6-2.