Women’s Tennis | Tufts starts spring season with tough week in California

Finishing its spring break trip to California against No. 5 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the No. 18 women’s tennis team failed to end its first week of the spring season on a high note.

Tufts started the team match slowly, losing three doubles matches by large deficits, 8-1, 8-1 and 8-0. The singles matches were also disappointing for the Jumbos, with five of the six resulting in set victories for the Athenas.

The one high point for Tufts was freshman Jacqueline Baum, who earned the only win for her side with a hard-fought, comeback victory over her sophomore counterpart Yvonne Likomanova in No. 6 singles, 3-6, 6-2, 10-7. With the other simultaneously started matches ending in straight sets, Baum had her teammates watching and cheering on for the decisive third set tiebreak.

“Having the whole team behind me in the third set gave me a lot of confidence,” Baum said. “I made a lot of changes after the first set, and tried to make [Likomanova] work more. It was a really good way to finish spring break.”

The loss was the team’s second in a row, as the previous day the Jumbos had headed to Claremont to face the Cougars of Azusa Pacific, eventually falling 7-2. After digging a hole by losing the opening doubles matches 8-5, 8-5 and 8-4, Tufts mustered two wins in singles: sophomore Catherine Worley in the No. 6 position 6-2, 6-3, and freshman Conner Calabro in the No. 3 position 6-1, 4-6, 10-7.

But spring break was not wholly disappointing for the team, as Tufts put forth its best performance of the week against Denison, 7-2. The highlight matches came in No. 1 and No. 2 singles, with two thrilling three set matches.

Senior captain Samantha Gann lost her first set and won the second against Denison senior Kelsey Geppner. In the final set, Gann completed her comeback, winning the set 6-4 and the match 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Freshman Alexa Meltzer had a similarly back and forth affair at No. 2 singles against sophomore Taylor Hawkins. Meltzer won the first set in a tiebreak 7-6, lost the second 5-7 and came back to win the third set tiebreak 10-7.

Calabro also starred for the Jumbos, winning her No. 3 singles match in straight sets 7-5, 6-4, and winning her doubles match against freshman Chelsea Hayashi 8-2. The other victories for Tufts came in No. 3 doubles for Baum and Gann 8-2, No. 5 singles for senior Rebecca Kimmel 6-3, 7-6 and No. 6 singles for Worley 6-0, 6-1.

“We had a great match against Denison, especially starting off 2-1 in doubles,” Baum said. “Doubles is one place we’ve been focusing on, and it was big to get those first vital wins.”

In Tufts’ first spring break competition, on March 18 against No. 15 La Verne, the Jumbos lost 6-3. Despite falling to its foes from La Verne, Tufts had several quality individual performances. Had a couple points gone Tufts’ way, the matchup may have ended differently.

Kimmel won her match at No. 6 singles 6-1, 6-2, easily dispatching of La Verne freshman Lauren Torres. Calabro also cruised to a straight set victory, taking down senior Allison Moncrief 6-1, 6-0 in No. 4 singles.

“La Verne was a really tough team; all the matches were close” Kimmel said. “I was able to take a couple more points, but most of the matches could have gone either way, including mine.”

Baum and Gann teamed up to win their match at No. 3 doubles 8-1 over Moncrief and Torres, but both fell in tight singles matches that could have altered the final result for Tufts.

In No. 5 singles, Baum fought early against Bridget Etchegary taking the first set to a tiebreak. However, in the extra game, Baum fell 7-3, which was then followed by a tough second-set loss, 6-1.

Gann started slowly in her match against sophomore Andrea Madrigal in No. 1 singles, losing the first set 6-1. She battled back to win the second set 6-4, before losing in the decisive third set by the same score.

Despite the individual losses, the budding doubles pairing of the freshman and senior captain was one of the highlights of the spring break matches. The duo won two of its four doubles matches. Only Calabro and Hayashi were also able to pair up for a doubles win over this first week of the season.

“It’s really great for me to have a partner who is a senior and is so experienced and energetic on the court,” Baum said. “We’re both really good playing from the baseline, and she’s really good coming forward to the net. I’ve learned a lot playing with her.”

Back at Tufts after the four matches in California, the team will begin its NESCAC season this Saturday at home against seventh-ranked Bowdoin, who Tufts fell to 6-3 last season.

“Doubles will again be really important for us against Bowdoin,” Kimmel said. “Hopefully we can get off to a fast start, and then just stay in the matches for as long as it takes, and work to compete really hard.”