Tufts loses at MIT, splits weekend home games

Tomo Iwasaki (LA '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

The women’s tennis team finished last week with mixed results, falling 6-3 at MIT on Wednesday night before recovering on Saturday with a 9-0 victory over Trinity at home. The weekend ended with a narrow 4-5 loss to the Middlebury Panthers on Sunday, handing the No. 14 Jumbos their first NESCAC loss of the season. The results put Tufts at 7-3 in overall play and 3-1 in the conference.

“Both [defeats against MIT and Middlebury] were pretty devastating losses. I think we definitely could have pulled out both of them,” junior co-captain Conner Calabro said. “Both teams are tough, but we definitely have to be on our A-game to beat them, and we just couldn’t pull it together. But I do feel that our team is improving; we were a lot better against Middlebury, and I can see that improvement in each and every match.”

Sunday’s conference loss to No. 7 Middlebury was a tight battle indicative of the high level of play characteristic of the NESCAC. The Jumbos’ doubles’ performance was driven on a strong serve-and-volley game as they sought to close out their service games quickly. This strategy played off as the team met its stated goal of leading after the doubles’ matches. The No. 1 doubles pair of sophomore Lauren Louks and first-year Mina Karamercan defeated Middlebury’s pair of senior Ria Gerger and junior Kaysee Orozco 8-4. Calabro and first-year partner Otilia Popa followed up the win by defeating junior Lily Bondy and senior Sadie Shackelford 8-5. Jumbo first-year Tomo Iwasaki and sophomore Zoe Miller fell 8-2 in the third position doubles match against first-year Christina Puccinelli and junior Alexandra Fields, but the Jumbos still went into the singles matches up 2-1.

Victories in the singles’ matches were harder to get though as the Jumbos won just two of the six. Junior Chelsea Hayashi was the only Tufts player to win in straight sets, downing Orozco 6-4, 6-2 in the No. 6 position. Karamercan, meanwhile, had to battle from a set down to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 over Fields. Louks fell 6-3, 6-3 to Gerger in the first position, while Miller lost 6-4, 6-1 against first-year Molly Paradies.

Despite the tough defeat, Calabro still found positives in the team’s performance.

“Against Middlebury, we played honestly the best doubles we’ve played all season,” Calabro said. “We went up after the doubles 2-1. All three doubles were playing super aggressively, the way we’ve been wanting to play … The No. 1 pair was playing so confidently — we were finishing points, we stepped on the court and knew we were going to win, and that showed in how we played. We definitely need to channel that type of energy, confidence and skill we have.”

The narrow defeat ended Tufts’ undefeated streak in the NESCAC that started the season, which had continued all the way through Saturday with the team’s 9-0 victory over No. 32 Trinity. In that match, the Jumbos racked up five 6-0 sets among Calabro, Miller, Iwasaki and junior Jacqueline Baum’s matches. They also won four sets with a 6-1 score, demonstrating their dominance over the Bantams. Miller dispatched sophomore Sara Curtis 6-0, 6-0, while Iwasaki defeated Sara’s twin sister Emily 6-1, 6-0. Tufts maintained its overall strong performance in the doubles, giving up only a total of four games to Trinity. The strong Louks-Karamercan pair beat sophomore Vanja Babunski and first-year Zoe Lindbloom 8-1, while the Miller-Iwasaki pair won its match against Sara Curtis and sophomore Janie Weber by the same scoreline.

In a marathon of a match on Wednesday, the Jumbos battled the MIT Engineers for just under seven hours, starting at 5:00 p.m. and ending just before midnight. The match was only the second of all season in which Tufts did not lead after the doubles matches. The other time the team failed to take the early lead was in its defeat against Pomona-Pitzer Colleges during spring break, the team’s only loss prior to this past week. In the first position doubles match, Louks and Karamercan fell to junior Elysa Kohrs and sophomore Sonya Das 8-4, while sophomore Dora Tzeng and junior Wendi Kong saw off the Tufts’ challengers Calabro and Popa 8-6. Miller and Iwasaki were able to prevent a shutout in the doubles though when they overcame junior Krystal Lai and sophomore Rena Liu 8-3 to grab a point and keep their team down by one heading into singles.

In the singles matches, the scores were unusually close, with five sets going to tiebreakers, causing the match to last as long as it did. Iwasaki and Miller were able to add to their doubles victory as they both came through tight matches to record two singles victories for the Jumbos. Iwasaki beat Kong 7-6, 7-6, while Miller beat Lai 7-5, 6-1. Both Karamercan and Baum took their matchups to three sets but ultimately fell as the team only won two of the six singles points in the emotionally and physically draining loss for Tufts.

Tufts next plays Wellesley on Thursday in its last home game for two weeks. The team then goes on a four-game road trip, starting Saturday at Brandeis before traveling to Amherst next Wednesday. The next time the Jumbos play at home will be against NESCAC rivals Bowdoin and Williams on April 30. Calabro is confident in the team’s ability to bounce back.

“Our team goal against Wellesley is to keep treating every single match the same way — we don’t categorize our opponents, and we just try and go in every single match with the same mentality, controlling what we can, getting better no matter who we faced and no matter how they’re ranked or other preconceived notions there might have been,” Calabro said. “We go into every match fresh and playing our game against whoever really because I know, and our whole team knows, that we have the talent and will to beat anyone we want this whole season and we will do that. The tough losses will make us stronger, hungrier rather than disappointed because we know that we’re right in it.”