Jumbos return to winning ways in emphatic fashion

Tomo Iwasaki (LA'19) hits the ball during the Tufts women's tennis match against Colby on the Voute Tennis Courts on April 1. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily Archive

No. 15 Tufts women’s tennis recovered from its narrow loss to a high-powered Middlebury team last week with two emphatic 9-0 victories over Wellesley on Thursday and Brandeis on Saturday to 9-3 this season. Eighth and ninth victories of the season means the Jumbos have now won more games than they did the entire of last season.

“I believe the team is much stronger this year than it was last year, and we are still continuing to improve and looking forward to more success,” said sophomore Lauren Louks in an email to the Daily.

Junior co-captain Conner Calabro agreed that the team has grown over this season and improved from recent years.

“Last year was a bit of a rebuilding year — we didn’t have any upperclassmen, and so we didn’t have that much experience,” Calabro said. “Now the combination of the experience of the returners with the talent and energy, the awesomeness of the first-years, I think we’re going to go very far this year.”

On Saturday, the Jumbos recorded their first victory away from their home Voute Courts since spring break with a 9-0 victory over the Brandeis Judges. The doubles were once again 3-0 for the seventh time this season. Louks and first-year partner Mina Karamercan continued to show why they play in the No. 1 doubles position as they comfortably dispatched Brandeis’ first-year Olivia Leavitt and sophomore Haley Cohen 8-3.  Junior Jacqueline Baum and first-year Tomo Iwasaki defeated seniors Emily Eska and Maya Vasser by the same score while Calabro and first-year Otilia Popa beat first-year Sophia He and sophomore Charlotte Aaron 8-5 to round out the Jumbo sweep.

In singles play, Iwasaki and junior Chelsea Hayashi both recorded 6-2, 6-3 victories over He and Vasser, respectively, while Karamercan beat Leavitt by a similar score of 6-3, 6-2. Calabro saw off first-year Keren Khromchenko 6-3, 7-5 while Louks was pushed to a tiebreaker in the second set before eventually defeating Cohen 6-2, 7-6 (4). The Jumbos only dropped one set in the entire matchup against Brandeis, with Miller recovering from losing the first set to Eska on her way to a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.

The improved performances throughout the season meant the team now holds itself to a higher standard of play.

“We didn’t want to look too far ahead, but we’ve always had the goal of making NCAAs and NESCACs,” Calabro said. “I feel our success has made us hold ourselves to an even higher standard, we go out and have a physical match and expect a lot from ourselves to put up a good fight whatever the outcome is. I think our goals have stayed generally the same [to win a national title], but I think our expectations for ourselves have been higher because we’ve been performing so well.”

The Tufts squad looked even more dominant on Thursday with a complete lockdown, winning all its singles matches in straight sets against No. 31 Wellesley. This ended Wellesley’s own six-match winning streak. Louks defeated first-year Justine Huang 6-3, 7-5. It was Karamercan who was pushed to a tiebreaker this time around, as she saw off sophomore Emily Olson 6-0, 7-6 (8-6). Calabro gave up only one game in a comfortable 6-0, 6-1 victory over first-year Tristan Lorich while Iwasaki saw off the challenge of junior Samantha Stone 6-2, 6-2. Miller defeated junior Dasha Kostikina 6-1, 6-3 as Hayashi beat first-year Rosanne Hu 6-3, 6-1.

“To take every single set against Wellesley is impressive — they’re a very solid team,” coach Kate Bayard said. “I was happy with how every Tufts team member just stayed in the moment and focused on playing each point as it came.”

Like almost every other previous match, the Jumbos were dominant in the doubles, giving up just nine games in their three doubles matches against the Blue. The Louks-Karamercan pair defeated the Olson-Huang pair 8-3, while Calabro and Popa defeated Kostikina and Stone 8-2. Iwasaki and Baum completed the rout in the third position with an 8-4 victory over Hu and Lorich.

With Tufts on a two-match winning-streak, it travels to No. 5 Amherst on Wednesday afternoon to kick off a stretch of five NESCAC matches to end the season. After Amherst, the team then heads to Conn. College on Friday and to Wesleyan on Sunday for its last two games on the road, before returning home for a final doubleheader.

“We’re really excited for Amherst because this is a big opportunity for our team, as in my years at Tufts, we’ve never beat them, so this would be a very big win in terms of that,” Calabro said. “If we continue playing the way we did in other previous matches and are pumped up for it, we can definitely beat them. They’re going to be a challenging opponent, no question, but I feel that no matter what they give us we can take it on.”

Bayard wants to continue to take each game at a time and is confident of the team’s ability to continue to compete strongly.

“Right from the start, we decided we wanted to stay in the moment and take one match at a time,” Bayard said. “We do feel confident every time we go out there that we have a good shot of winning each match, but we just take one match at a time and [do] not look far ahead. There are so many teams out there that are really strong, so every match is a tough match. We’ve got a very strong schedule.