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This weekend, the Crimson women’s tennis team returned home on an extended three-match winning streak, as it prevailed with resilient wins over the DePaul University Blue Demons and the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers in two decisive away match-ups.
Head coach Traci Green was proud of the team’s strong showing over the weekend and highlighted the value of these matchups.
“It was great to play a strong couple of teams from different parts of the country, and get to see how we match up against them,” Green said. “We got valuable experience for our team and overall we grew a lot.”
Junior captain Angel You echoed Green’s sentiment and expressed her excitement about the team’s cohesion.
“It was really exciting to play two strong teams away in their home territory and to see the team grow throughout the weekend,” You said.
HARVARD 4, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY 3
The weekend began with a thrilling four-and-a-half-hour matchup against DePaul University in which the Crimson ultimately prevailed 4-3 to secure a hard-fought victory.
Harvard faced an early setback, trailing 0-1 after conceding the doubles point despite a strong 6-3 win from freshmen Kavya Karra and Stephanie Yakoff, who clinched the sole doubles victory at the No. 3 position.
Encapsulating this initial struggle, You reflected on adversity as being an inherent part of any game: “Going down 0-1 at the beginning of the match was tough but it was really great seeing the fight and the hunger in our team.”
Nonetheless, the Crimson fought back hard in the singles to claim a second-straight victory. Junior Holly Fischer, who played at the No.1 position and is ranked No. 103 nationally, continued her striking form with a dominant 6-2, 6-1 victory, elevating her to 3-1 on the spring and 8-1 overall for the season.
Fellow junior Maxi Duncan secured the second straight-set win at the No. 4 spot, downing DePaul’s Yulia Kizelbasheva and prevailing 7-6 (2), 6-1 to secure her third win of the spring season. Entering at the No. 6 position and making her debut in dual action, first-year Natalie Block clinched her inaugural collegiate dual win, defeating the Blue Demons’ Emily Casati in straight sets.
The final victory of the day came from Karra, as she battled to defeat DePaul’s Greta Carone at the No. 5 position. Taking the first set in tiebreaks, 7-6 (4), Carone was able to battle back, narrowly taking the second set. The match closed out as Karra proved dominant in the final set, ultimately securing a 6-1 singles win as well as the victory for the Crimson. Karra hereby secured her second consecutive match of the season to rise to 2-1 in the spring and 8-5 in total.
With the hard-fought win over the Blue Demons, Harvard gained the advantage in the all-time series, now leading 3-2 against DePaul.
Reflecting on the match, Green emphasized the team’s priorities for the matchup against the University of Nebraska the following day.
“It was a grueling match,” Green said. “We didn't quite start the way we wanted in the first match against DePaul in the doubles, but it was amazing the way our squad turned things around and brought the energy and focus to secure four points on the board.”
HARVARD 4, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA 3
The Crimson carried this winning momentum into Sunday as it faced the Cornhuskers in their second match of the weekend.
The day opened with an impressive comeback in doubles action, as the Crimson fell at the No. 2 position before battling back at the No. 1 spot with a 6-3 win from Fischer and Yakoff. Block and senior Sany Gawande clinched the crucial doubles point for Harvard at the No. 3 position as they rallied back in tiebreakers, ultimately winning 7-6 (4) and keeping their undefeated streak as a duo. The pair moved to 3-0 in the spring and 5-0 overall.
Green underscored the commitment of the team, emphasizing the imperative to “muster up all the energy we could against a team we knew was outstanding in their conference and ready to get another win on their schedule.”
“I loved the way we started,” Green added. “Different folks stepped up in doubles and helped us get the doubles point on the board, getting the team ignited so we could finish the job.”
In singles play, the Cornhuskers initially pulled into the lead by securing victories at both the No. 1 and 4 positions. Despite being down 2-1, however, the Crimson dominated the rest of the match.
In a straight set, 6-4, 7-5 win from Duncan over Nebraska’s Anfisa Danilchenko, Harvard leveled the score. Yakoff followed closely behind with another straight-set, 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory after fighting it out through tiebreakers in the first set and ultimately reaching double digit victories with an impressive record of 10-4 overall.
The match was finally secured by freshman Katie Kim at the No. 5 position, who pulled out a 6-3 victory to clinch her fourth victory of the season and remain undefeated. Kim currently leads the team in singles wins with a record of 14-3, including a perfect 4-0 standing in dual matches.
Harvard has brought in five freshmen this year, who consistently contribute to both the team’s victories and dynamics.
“It's been great to see them step up into the role and really wear that H on their chest with pride,” You said, praising the freshmen’s contributions thus far. “Coming off the junior tour into college is a transition, and seeing them grow into the team dynamic and yell ‘Go Crim!’ has been really rewarding.”
Green echoed this sentiment, adding that the younger players stepping up has been “a really great sign for our team this early in the season.”
Sunday’s meeting was the first between Harvard and Nebraska, bringing the Crimson to a 1-0 advantage in the all-time series. With its match-up against the Cornhuskers being its final of four consecutive away matches, the Crimson secured a 3-1 record during this stretch, with its only loss coming against top-10 ranked opponent Texas A&M University.
UP NEXT: ECAC CHAMPIONSHIPS
Looking ahead, Harvard is gearing up for the ECAC Championships scheduled from Feb. 9th through the 11th at the Crimson’s home court, the Murr. Green and You highlighted the importance of reflection, rest and preparation for the upcoming tournament.
“We will really reflect on what we need to work on and bringing it into practice,” You said. “With ECACs coming right around the corner we want to show everybody what we're made of.”
“Facing two tough teams, we worked on facing adversity and fighting through, really showing what it's about to be on HWT [Harvard Women’s Tennis] and really bringing that heart in the fight to every match,” Green said. “Now it's just about keeping it going on to the rest of the season.”
Green also emphasized adequate rest as a key component in terms of preparation, and praised the team’s two captains in leading the team.
“We have two very fine captains who have been there before who are hungry and ready to lead the team, no matter what comes our way that weekend,” Green said, adding that “it's three days of tennis in a row, so we have to have our bodies in the right place physically, to withstand those days.”
In terms of goals for the season, both identified winning the Ivy League Championship as a main priority.
“Our main goal is always to win the Ivy League Championship,” Green said. “We also have a lot of smaller goals like to win the ECACs. They're all goals that we feel are within our control and within our reach. This is going to take a lot of teamwork, dedication, and consistency, so we're excited about it. Right now our main focus is on the first round at ECACs.”
You shared a similar determined outlook for the tournaments ahead. “We're really hungry for that [Ivy League Championships] ring,” she said. “Our first goal in sight is ECACs and our first round there."
—Staff writer Emma de Jong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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