For the Harvard women’s tennis team, this weekend saw a continuation of a trend of close Ivy League matches. Like all the Crimson’s other Ancient Eight contests this season, this weekend’s away matches were nail biters—both decided by just one point. The team kicked off its road trip with a 4-3 victory against Columbia on Friday afternoon and finished with a loss to Cornell on Saturday by the same narrow margin.
Harvard went into the weekend with confidence after edging both Brown and Yale 4-3 last weekend. This momentum was bolstered by a No. 49 ranking in the ITA rankings announced earlier in the week, the first time the Crimson has broken the top 50 since the 2009-10 season.
“It’s really nice to see how our team is getting stronger and stronger each Ivy League match,” head coach Traci Green said. “Cornell didn’t go our way but the overall spirit and toughness of our team is really showing.”
With its results this weekend, Harvard will stay atop the Ivy League. However, the team has to share possession of the coveted first place with Princeton, which it will face next weekend.
CORNELL, 4, HARVARD, 3
This weekend’s match in Ithaca was not the first meeting between Harvard and Cornell this season. The teams faced each other in the ECAC Championships in February, when the Crimson walked away with a 4-3 victory. This time, however, the roles were reversed, as the Big Red (13-6, 3-2 Ivy League) came out on top.
The deciding point of the match rested on the No. 3 singles match between Harvard freshman Jenna Friedl and Cornell junior Priyanka Shah. After losing the first set 7-6, Friedl battled back to win the second set, also by a margin of 7-6. Despite a 4-1 lead in the third set, the California native was unable to close the final set, falling 7-5.
“Jenna’s a fighter, and Cornell was doing a great job of counterpunching,” coach Green said. “It literally came down to just a few points.”
The match started off strong for the Crimson, as it was able to secure the doubles point with wins in the first and second positions. The duo of captain June Lee and sophomore Erica Oosterhout put on an impressive 6-4 performance against Cornell seniors Marika Cusick and Alexandra D’Ascenzo, improving to 13-9 on the season in the No. 1 doubles slot. Sophomore Sabrina Xiong and junior Annika Ringblom made quick work of Cornell’s second doubles pair, defeating Shah and and sophomore Mariko Iinuma 6-3.
Despite winning the doubles point, Harvard was unable to capitalize on its one-point lead in the singles competition. Oosterhout, playing No. 1 singles, fell to Cusick 6-1, 6-1, and freshmen Lexi Milunovich and Irene Lu fell in the fourth and fifth positions, respectively. After winning her first set 6-2, Milunovich was unable to hang on, ultimately falling by margins of 6-3 and 7-6 in the final two sets. Lu wasn’t able to keep her match as close, losing 6-3, 6-3 to the Big Red’s Iinuma.
Though these three singles losses, combined with Friedl’s defeat in the deciding match, meant the end of Harvard’s unbeaten record in the Ivy League, the match did have some highlights for the Crimson. In the second position, Lee continued her consistent performance with a 6-3, 7-6 win over D’Ascenzo, and in the sixth position, Ringblom battled back from a 6-1 loss in the first set to win the last two sets 7-6 and 6-4.
“Hats off to the way [Cornell] competed at home with their backs against the wall,” Green said. “They came through, and they deserved to win yesterday.”
HARVARD, 4, COLUMBIA, 3
In its first match of the weekend, the Crimson faced a struggling Columbia team. After losing seven of its first eight matches this season the Lions (5-14, 1-4 Ivy League) clinched their first Ivy League win against Penn on April 7. However, they were unable to improve their Ancient Eight record on Friday at home, as Harvard earned the 4-3 win.
The Crimson got off to a slow start, dropping the doubles point with losses in the second and third doubles positions. Freshmen Natasha Gonzalez and Milunovich lost 6-2 at No. 2 doubles, and the No. 3 pair of Lu and Ringblom fell in a similar manner, 6-4. Harvard’s first doubles duo of Oosterhout and Lee, who have been solid all season, didn’t get a chance to finish their match, as Columbia had secured the point already.
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