The 18th-ranked women’s tennis team has begun to hit its stride after losing four of its first five matches this spring. A non-conference win against Wellesley on April 1 warmed the team up for two key NESCAC matchups this past Friday and Sunday.
Following an easy 9-0 win at home against Colby on Friday, Tufts travelled to Clinton, N.Y., to face Hamilton on Sunday morning. The Jumbos showed no signs of early morning fatigue, with their sole loss of the day coming at No. 1 doubles. The team swept aside Hamilton in an overall 8-1 victory.
Freshman Conner Calabro and sophomore Catherine Worley won at No. 3 doubles 8-2, as did freshman Alexa Meltzer and senior captain Samantha Gann at No. 2 doubles. Senior Shelci Bowman and freshman Jacqueline Baum lost at No. 1 doubles in the most hotly contested match of the day, 9-8(5).
The Jumbos had a rough start in doubles over spring break, winning just three of twelve matches – results that left the team open to changes in pairings which resulted in immediate improvements.
“I think that, after spring break, we all really understood that it’s difficult to be down after doubles, so we were all more than open to trying out new teams,” Gann said. “Sometimes certain people’s playing styles mesh better than others on the court, and I think that since the switch has been made, we have been playing all-around better doubles.”
Tufts’ improvement has been obvious. The Jumbos’ doubles teams have gone 8-4 since spring break, including winning eight of their last nine after experiencing some growing pains against the Bowdoin Polar Bears, when they dropped all three doubles matchups.
Gann’s and Meltzer’s new partnership has been especially impressive, with the top two singles players having lost only seven games total in their last three doubles matches together.
“After spring break, we needed to improve our results, and it’s helped having more time to practice,” Meltzer said. “[Sam Gann and I] both have a similar game style. Sam is a more knowledgeable doubles player and is able to give me a lot of strategic tips on the court. I think it’s working really well so far.”
Tufts took control of the team match after doubles, winning all of the singles matches against Hamilton without dropping a set. Gann took her match at No. 1 singles 6-2, 6-4, with Meltzer following that up closely at No. 2 singles with a 6-0, 6-4 victory.
Calabro and Bowman also swept their matches in clinical fashion, winning 6-3, 6-2 and 6-2, 6-2, respectively. Baum and Worley notched the other wins for the Jumbos, 8-1 and 8-4, playing to eight games instead.
For the fourth consecutive match, the team was forced indoors due to poor weather conditions. But for the first time this season, the Jumbos found themselves playing away from home on an unfamiliar indoor court, where they had to make some quick early adjustments.
“The courts at Hamilton were quite a bit slower,” Meltzer said. “It was good practice, because they were actually much closer to what we will be playing with outdoors the rest of the season.”
The win over Hamilton caps off Tufts’ third consecutive win after beating Wellesley and Colby, bringing Tufts’ record to 6-5 this year and 2-1 in conference play.
The Jumbos opened their weekend play on Friday, dispatching the Colby Mules 9-0 without dropping a set. Doubles again provided to be a spark for Tufts, winning the three matches 8-0, 8-1 and 8-1.
Tufts showed no mercy in singles either. Worley, Meltzer and senior Rebeca Kimmel all won in dominant fashion, 6-0, 6-0. Gann (6-1, 6-4), Calabro (6-1, 6-3) and Bowman (6-2, 6-0) all dispatched their opponents with similar ease.
“It definitely feels good to have these wins under our belt,” Gann said. “But aside from winning, we feel that it’s more important that we’ve each shown growth in the last two matches.
Tufts plays its next match away at Wesleyan University on Wednesday, before facing two of the top four teams in the country this weekend in Williams and Amherst.
“”We’re at a much different place than we were in the beginning of the season,”” Gann said. “”It’s really crucial for us with some really big matches coming up to use these strides that we’ve made to play our best and toughest tennis.””