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Close to the halfway mark of its 2022-23 season, Harvard’s women’s tennis team looks to continue improving. With a 6-5 start already, the Crimson is gearing up for its Ivy League season in April, undeterred by any previous setbacks, and dedicating itself to success.
“I’m proud of the growth of our team and I’m super excited to keep building with our squad,” head coach Traci Green said.
Coming into the spring season, the team was fresh off a successful fall season. During the fall season, Harvard focused on individual improvement with an emphasis on fitness, energy levels, as well as both singles and doubles match play.
“[The fall season was] to get us used to playing in a college environment, being competitive, learning about ourselves, and how we handle different match situations,” senior captain Sophia Ho said.
After the first spring games, Harvard found themselves with an undefeated record, beating Quinnipiac, Army, and Boston College. The Crimson shut out Quinnipiac and Army, but its Boston College matchup came down to the wire: sophomore Angel You beat Stephanie Sanchez (6-4, 6-2) to secure the third home win for Harvard.
Unfortunately, the win streak didn’t continue. Harvard lost its duals to LSU (5-2), Penn State (7-0), No. 4 Duke (7-0), and Baylor (5-2).
“Our coach designed a tough schedule of course to challenge us and to push us to get better and better,” sophomore Rachel Arbitman explained.
Despite being the underdogs, Harvard approached these matches with a desire to prove itself.
“Although we go into those matches with nothing to lose, it doesn’t mean that we should lose,” Ho commented. “We really want to take those opportunities to show these schools what we can really do.”
The Crimson remained to be a source of tough competition throughout the matches regardless of the final scores. Some of the more impressive performances included sophomore Maxi Duncan losing 10-8 to No. 28 Cameron Morra from Duke in a third set tie breaker, first-year Charlotte Owensby beating No. 7 Kylie Collins from LSU (6-3, 0-6, 6-4), and senior Mihaela Marculescu defeating Daniella Dimitrov from Baylor in a neck and neck fight (3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5)).
“We had matches going on for hours and hours and three sets,” Arbitman added. “We can see that we are so close and that just motivates us to work even harder.”
The ECAC Championships against Ancient Eight opponents Columbia, Cornell, and Princeton quickly approached in mid-February. . Harvard commenced the tournament with a 4-0 shutout against Cornell, followed by a difficult 4-0 loss to the first seed Princeton team. In doubles, junior Iveta Daujotaite and Arbitman pulled out a dominating win over Princeton’s two doubles team (6-1), but the others came up short giving the doubles point to the Tigers. After that, it was a quick three consecutive singles wins for Princeton to complete the first day.
Rather than retreating, the losses motivated the Crimson to keep going, with Ho commenting that, “The team morale after a game like that was just that we were hungry to get back to practice, keep improving, and show up for the next match.”
Coach Green remarked that, “The good news is that we get to see them again in April.”
As Harvard looked toward its third place match against Columbia, it was ready: the next day in the doubles round, Arbitman and Daujotaite pulled off an upset when they defeated the nationally ranked No. 60 Columbia team. Two games later, Ho and sophomore Maxi Duncan secured the doubles point for Harvard.
In the singles round, the Crimson clinched the first two points of singles with Harvard’s first-year, No. 75 Charlotte Owensby, defeating Anna Zhang of Columbia, 6-4, 6-4, and Duncan swiftly beating Columbia’s Rachele Rimondini in the number two spot, 6-1, 6-3. Eventually, Harvard clinched their third-place trophy with junior Sany Gawande defeating Winta Tweolde, 7-5, 6-4.
“The message [is] that anything is possible and anything can happen on any day,” Ho said. “We just have to be willing to put in the work to prepare and show up on match days,” Ho said.
Looking forward, the team seeks to improve practice by practice, making small goals that will add up to a bigger dream: winning the Ivy League conference title.
“Our main goal is the same goal for the rest of the season: to get better each week, to get better each practice. We know that improvement lends itself to achieving big goals,” Green said.
Ho added, “Everybody is extremely dedicated to our team's goals. Our overarching goal is wanting to win our Ivy Conference, and our day-to-day goal is just to be better and play better than we did the day before.”
As the season continues, Harvard women’s tennis will continue its efforts to improve its game while keeping its eyes on the Ivy League matches. The Crimson will also play at home for its next several matches before the beginning of the Ivy League season.
The senior captain reflected that “being at home is so nice because we always have fans come out to come support us and our friends to come watch us play — I think that is super motivating for all the girls on the team. Everybody’s energy is a bit higher when there are people in the stands supporting us.”
After its meet against Long Beach State, Harvard will take a two-week break from competition before hosting a pair of bouts against the University of Rhode Island and the University of Denver on Friday, March 10-11 for its final home games before the start of the Ivy League season in April.
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