Women’s tennis starts the season 3-1 after productive spring break trip

Catherine Worley, no longer on the team, reaches for the ball in a Tufts Women's Tennis match against Williams on Apr. 12, 2014. Caroline Geiling/ The Tufts Daily Archive

The No. 22 women’s tennis team got  its spring season off to a great start over spring break, winning three of its four contests in California ahead of a busy April and a host of NESCAC matches. The team beat Pacific University 9-0 on Sunday, March 20 and went on to upset higher-ranked opponents Lewis and Clark College 7-2 and the University of Chicago 8-1 on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. But a 6-3 loss on Thursday against Pomona-Pitzer Colleges ranked No. 3 in the nation, prevented Tufts from having a perfect trip.

“I am pleased with what we have accomplished during our first four matches of the season,” coach Kate Bayard told the Daily in an email. “It is early in the season, but we have already shown that we are capable of beating any team out there.”

Tufts opened its 2016 spring season with a dominant victory over Pacific University in Malibu on Sunday to kick off the Southern California trip, winning every match-up. Tufts sophomore Lauren Louks beat junior Kaitlyn Lomartire 6-4, 6-1, while junior Jacqueline Baum won with a pair of bagel sets over senior Carlee Rhodaback in a match characteristic of the Jumbos’ strong play on the day. This was mirrored by the 6-1, 6-0 win of junior co-captain Conner Calabro over first-year Chantelle Baclay and sophomore Zoe Miller’s 6-0, 6-2 victory over classmate Marissa Hayashi.

The team moved to 2-0 the next day, beating No.19 Lewis and Clark 7-2 to deliver the Pioneers their first loss of the season. One of the closer matches saw Tufts first-year Tomo Iwasaki defeated 7-5, 6-4 in a tightly contested match by sophomore Christine Eliazo. Louks, ranked 30th in the nation, duked it out in the first position with nationally ranked No. 7 sophomore Summer Garrison, but was unable to pull off the upset, falling 6-1, 6-3.

But those were the only two defeats on the day for the Jumbos, who went on to win all the other match-ups. Tufts first-year Mina Karamercan put on an impressive performance, defeating senior Aurora Garrison 6-0, 6-2, while teammates Baum, Calabro and Miler also took home singles victories. The team’s doubles play was strong again as the doubles teams completed another clean sweep. Louks paired up with Karamercan to beat the No. 23-ranked pair, the Garrison sisters in an 8-2 finish, while Calabro and first-year Otilia Popa defeated their opponents 9-8. Iwasaki put her singles loss behind her and teamed up with Miller to beat the No.14 pair of Eliazo and senior Claudia Lew 8-2.

“Our team is so close and there is a tremendous amount of respect between the underclassmen and upperclassmen which is not always the case on many teams,” junior co-captain Alexa Meltzer told the Daily in an email. “Our doubles performance this past week proved this as all of our teams are comprised of players of different ages. Because of this mutual respect and closeness within our team, each doubles team uses this to their advantage and was able to execute throughout our matches in California last week.”

Tufts then took on another top-20 opponent the next day, beating the No. 14 University of Chicago 8-1 on Tuesday. The singles players won all their match-ups, highlighted by a pair of come-from-behind victories. At the fourth position, Iwasaki overturned a 4-6 first-set loss to first-year Kaela Bynoe, winning the next two sets 7-6 (0), 10-8. Junior Chelsea Hayashi overcame a similar 4-6 deficit against first-year Katarina Stevanovic with two tie breakers of her own, winning 7-6 (2), 10-2.

“It was a nice confidence booster for the team to beat such a strong Chicago team by a score of 8-1,” Bayard said. “Winning two out of three doubles matches set the tone for that match. I was proud of how we played with so much composure and fight throughout the entire singles line-up.”

The team just missed out on going a perfect 4-0 over the break though with a 6-3 to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on Thursday. Playing against some of the top players in Div. III, the Jumbos struggled to put together enough upsets to come out with the win and could not beat their third higher-ranked opponent in four days. Miller fell to senior Samantha Mae Coyiuto 1-6, 6-3, 6-0, while No. 26 sophomore Mary Zhao defeated Calabro 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Louks, in the first position, was unable to overcome first-year Caroline Casper, losing 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. In a bright spot for Tufts, Karamercan pulled off the shock of the afternoon as she beat No. 6 first-year Joy Kim in straight sets 6-3, 7-5. Despite the loss, the team considers holding its own against one of the nation’s best teams a promising sign.

“Pomona-Pitzer is currently ranked No. 3 in the country, and that match was completely even all the way through. Although we obviously would have rather won that match, losing such a close match to that team will help us down the road,” Bayard said.

Reflecting on the spring break performances, Meltzer is positive for the team’s prospects going forward against stronger opponents this year.

“Each match was a bit tougher than the last and we stepped up our game for each team, and Pomona was definitely our toughest match but we fought extremely hard and put everything we had out on the court for that match,” Meltzer said. “Unfortunately the match didn’t go our way that day but I am confident we will be able to beat a team like that going forward this season — something we haven’t been able to do in the past.”

The team now prepares for its first set of home games starting on Thursday against Babson, which is 11-3 on the season so far. Tufts then plays a Colby team on a four-match win streak on Friday before facing Bates on Saturday, a team that is conversely winless in its last four. Tufts looks to build on its strong doubles performance from spring break.

“We are looking forward to our triple header coming up this weekend,” Meltzer said. “One of our goals is to be up after the doubles either 2-1 or 3-0, because that has proved to be crucial for us in our matches this past week.”

Though still resting from the spring break trip, the Jumbos are readying themselves for a packed weekend, just the start of an intense April schedule.

“We have an extremely demanding schedule this spring and we are taking one match at a time,” Bayard said. “We know exactly how we need to prepare for our next match on Thursday, and we will get to work early this week.”