Jumbo tennis wins all three home games to continue strong start to season

Lauren Louks ('19) hits the ball during the Tufts women's tennis matches against Colby on the Voute Tennis Courts on April 1. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

Tufts women’s tennis swept to three straight victories in as many days over the weekend, defeating Babson 9-0 on Thursday and then Colby by the same score on Friday before seeing off Bates 8-1 on Saturday as the team opened its spring home season. The wins put the Jumbos at 2-0 in NESCAC play and 6-1 overall in their hot start to the season as the team climbed up the Div. III rankings from No. 22 to No. 14 with their success.

“I’m very happy with how the team competed throughout all three matches,” Coach Kate Bayard said. “We showed a great deal of mental focus and intensity throughout the matches. Many of the sets could have been closer, especially in the Bates match. Even in the matches that we won say, 6-0, 6-1, it showed a great deal of focus on our part to win those matches by those scores, because we had the same sense of energy and focus throughout the match, and that’s something that we’ve been working on.”

The Jumbos came up just short on Saturday of completing a perfect week, losing their first and only point of the week as Bates Bobcat sophomore Maisie Silverman and junior Kate Rosenthal overcame the Jumbos’ junior co-captain Conner Calabro and first-year Otilia Popa in the second position of doubles match-ups by an 8-4 margin. Other than the rainy weather that forced all three of the matches inside the Gantcher Center, the lone doubles loss represented the only blemish on an otherwise perfect week for Tufts women’s tennis.

Bates gave Tufts its most challenging competition of the homestand, but the squad still cruised to victory after winning all other match-ups on the day. Calabro was pushed to a tie-breaker in the first set in her third position singles match against Bates first-year Isabella Stone, but the second set proved to be more comfortable, as Calabro won the match 7-6 (4), 6-1. The first position saw Jumbo sophomore Lauren Louks pushed to three sets – the only match that went to a deciding set in this three-game home series. Louks took the first-set 6-1, but Silverman fought back to take the second 6-2. Louks eventually recovered to take the decider by the same 6-2 scoreline. First-year Mina Karamercan wrapped up her week with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over junior Elizabeth Erbafina, while first-year Tomo Iwasaki defeated Rosenthal 6-0, 6-0 in their singles match-up. Sophomore Zoe Miller won 6-3, 6-2 against junior Olivia Voccola, and junior Jacqueline Baum defeated first-year Hannah Londoner 6-1, 6-0 to complete a perfect week in singles matches for Tufts.

The Jumbos were even more dominant on Friday, defeating the Colby Mules 9-0, with complete 8-0 wipe-outs in all three of their double matches. Louks and Karamercan beat the twin sister first-years Gabriella and Lydia Venditti. Karamercan also completely locked out Gabriella Venditti in their singles match-up, winning 6-0, 6-0.  Calabro and Iwasaki both recorded 6-0, 6-1 victories over first-year Holly Bogo and sophomore Jamie Pine in their respective single match-ups, while junior Chelsea Hayashi defeated sophomore Katie Ryan 6-1, 6-0.

The team returned to playing in New England for the first time since October by easily defeating Babson 9-0 on Thursday. In the singles matches, the Jumbos managed to win all of their games in straight sets, with five of the six matches ending with a bagel set in favor of the Jumbos. In the first position, Louks beat first-year Eleni Gianelos 6-0, 6-3. The win set the tone for the rest of the Jumbos, as Calabro beat sophomore co-captain Tori Paolino 6-0, 6-2, while both Iwasaki and Baum scored 6-1, 6-0 victories over first-year Chloe Brandt and sophomore Kylie Kam, respectively. Equally impressive on the day were the doubles players, who limited their opponents to winning just five games combined over the three match-ups.

“I think overall in the doubles, everyone was really aggressive and they took advantage of the work we’ve been putting into doubles a lot,” Calabro said. “We’ve been working on closing into the net, and just finishing points really quickly, and on all three days that was really prevalent.”

Bayard explained that winning early was a key part of the team’s strategy.

“One of our goals from each team match has been to be up after doubles, and so, we focused a lot on energy levels in doubles — communication between every point, lots of footwork on top of strategy work,” Bayard said. “Most people coming into college focus on singles, so it’s nice to see the focus on doubles paying off.”

The team will make the short trip to No. 17 MIT this evening for some non-conference action before playing Trinity (Conn.) and No. 7 Middlebury at home over the weekend.

“Middlebury will be one of our toughest opponents yet, but I’m really confident with the way the team’s performing that we can take them on and beat them,” Calabro said. “They’ve always been a close rival of ours because they’re in the NESCAC.  In the past years, we’ve not been as good, so teams may underestimate us, and we can use that to our advantage.”

As they prepare to take on a tough MIT Engineers squad and one of the best programs in the NESCAC and the country in the Middlebury Panthers, the Jumbos remain composed and confident.

“We’ve been focusing on one match at a time, and right now, we’re focused on MIT,” Bayard said. “I’d say all of our opponents are tough, but I feel we really need to stay in the moment. MIT is a strong team. We aren’t labeling matches as difficult opponents, or matches we should win. We’re approaching every point expecting every ball to come back regardless of who we play, and we’re focusing on what we need to do.”