Following two tough losses last week against Williams and Amherst, the No. 18 women’s tennis team got back to its winning ways at home this past Saturday in a pair of NESCAC matches against No. 15 Trinity and unranked Bates.
Tufts, who had won four straight matches before facing Williams and Amherst, refused to let the midweek matches affect its early play against Trinity, taking a quick 2-1 lead in doubles.
“It was a good learning experience [playing Amherst and Williams],” senior captain Samantha Gann said. “We knew it would be especially critical to get ahead in doubles after our last two matches. I thought we opened up very well.”
Freshmen Conner Calabro and Chelsea Hayashi won a back and forth affair at No. 3 doubles, taking down the Trinity senior duo of Elizabeth Gerber and Caroline Gagne, 9-7.
Gann and freshman Alexa Meltzer, the top two singles players for Tufts, paired up at No. 2 doubles, cruising to an 8-1 victory.
In singles play, the story of the match for the Jumbos was their production from the bottom three positions. It was a group that provided solid results all spring, posting a 12-9 record since spring break. Against Trinity, they needed to play well, knowing that Trinity posed a formidable top three.
Seniors Shelci Bowman and Rebecca Kimmel were first off the court, winning their matches at No. 4 and No. 6 singles with ease, 6-0, 6-0 and 6-1, 6-1, respectively. Freshman Jacqueline Baum finished shortly after, posting the decisive result at No. 5 singles winning by a score of 6-2, 6-1 over Gerber, and clinching the team match before any of the top three were able to finish.
“I thought I played well, staying consistent with the ball and staying patient, and letting [Gerber] miss on the long rallies.” Baum said. “I didn’t know my match was the deciding match until I was off the court, but it was nice when I found out.”
The top three Tufts players, by contrast, struggled against Trinity, failing to win any of their matches. Gann competed in what was arguably the best match of the day, taking the first set against Trinity sophomore Melita Ferjanic 6-3, before falling in the second set 6-2 and in the third set tiebreak 10-8.
Meltzer and Calabro fell 6-3, 6-3 and 6-2, 7-5 at No. 2 and No.3 singles to round out the matches.
Just a few hours later, the team took to the courts again, ready to match up against Bates. Bates entered the match on poor run of form, having lost five of its last six matches, with a NESCAC record of 2-2 and overall record of 7-6.
Tufts showed no mercy in the early going, taking all three doubles matches. Calabro and Hayashi teamed up again at No. 3 doubles, defeating senior Lucy Brennan and freshman Olivia Voccola 8-3. Gann and Meltzer again cruised to another 8-1 victory at No. 2 doubles, this time against the Bates pairing of senior Kristen Doerer and freshman Kate Rosenthal. At the No. 1 position, Bowman and Baum played one of the tighter matches of the day, defeating junior Elena Mandzhukova and freshman Elizabeth Erbafina 8-6.
There was no letup in singles play, as the Jumbos won five out of the six matches. The bottom three positions were again a quick source of wins for Tufts, with all three matches won in straight sets.
Sophomore Catherine Worley notched the first win at No. 6 singles 6-0, 6-3, with Meltzer finishing shortly after at No. 2 singles, winning by the same score, 6-0, 6-3. Bowman and Baum were not far behind at No. 4 and No. 5 singles, with the two winning 7-5, 6-3 and 6-3, 6-1, respectively.
Gann was again involved in the highlight match at No. 1 singles, this time coming out on top. Facing the No. 29-ranked singles player, Mandzhukova, Gann jumped out to the early lead, winning the first set in a tiebreak 7-6(3). Mandzhukova battled back in the second set, winning 6-1, and forcing a third set tiebreak. Refusing to lose in another third set, Gann won the key points in a tight tiebreak, earning Tufts its eighth and final win of the match.
“I actually had a stomach flu Friday night and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to play at all on Saturday,” Gann said. “I told myself I had to do it for my teammates. After losing a tough [tiebreaker] against Trinity, I really wanted that last set against Bowdoin.”
The day was also marked by senior day celebrations for the three seniors Gann, Bowman and Kimmel. In a team more than half made up of freshman, the seniors have played an especially key role this year not only on the court, but off the court as well.
“They’ve all been very good individual leaders and role models,” Baum said. “They’ve taught us how to stay focused and motivated both in practices and in matches.”
Tufts will travel to No. 10 Middlebury on Friday for the team’s final regular season game before the NESCAC championships.
“It was a really sentimental day,” Gann said. “But like [head] coach [Kate Roiter Bayard] told us, ‘there’s a lot of tennis ahead of us.’ If we execute like the last two matches I really like our chances going forward.”