No. 17 ranked Tufts women’s tennis is in the midst of an impressive season, as they finished with an 11-6 regular season record — its best since the 2010-11 season. Tufts’ 5-4 record in conference play qualified the team as the sixth seed at the NESCAC tournament. Despite falling 5-4 to Amherst in the first round of the NESCAC Championship, Tufts received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, but was eventually defeated in the third round by Bowdoin 5-1 on May 14, after having secured a 5-0 second round victory over Colby-Sawyer a day earlier.
“This season has personally been my best season at Tufts and also the best of any team I’ve had in my three years,” rising senior co-captain Conner Calabro said. “Results-wise, dynamic-wise, motivation-wise, just like all in all, it’s been really great, I’ve loved every second of it.”
In particular, Tufts team’s chemistry and doubles performance have been solid throughout the entire year.
“We’re so much stronger now than where we were [at] beginning of the season, and I truly feel we’ve improved in every single match,” coach Kate Bayard said. “We’ve had huge improvement in our doubles, we worked really hard on it. The team is a lot more comfortable on the doubles court in many ways, in terms of positioning and shot selection.”
The Jumbos started the season off posting a 4-1 record in March, including a successful trip to California. Back home, Tufts rattled off three NESCAC victories in a row to kick off April, ruined only by a loss to MIT. Despite defeating Colby, Bates and Trinity 9-0, 8-1 and 9-0 respectively, Middlebury surprised Tufts 5-4 on April 10, giving the team its first conference loss. Wins over Wellesley and Brandeis helped the team’s overall record, but after Amherst defeated Tufts 6-3, Tufts’ NESCAC record fell into question. Finishing out the regular season 2-2, including a 9-0 victory over Conn. College, kept the Jumbos above a .500 win rate.
In the first round of the NESCAC Championships, Tufts had sought to avenge their regular-season loss to third-seed Amherst, but eventually fell to a 5-4 defeat. Tufts lost second and third position doubles, but in first doubles, rising junior Lauren Louks and rising sophomore Mina Karamercan displayed excellent teamwork and chemistry in defeating Amherst graduating seniors Sue Ghosh and Sarah Monteagudo 8-3. The Jumbos battled back from their 2-1 doubles deficit, taking a 3-1 lead in singles matches. Louks completed her singles victory over Ghosh 6-4, 6-2, and Karamercan beat rising junior Vicki Ip 6-2, 6-3, while rising junior Zoe Miller saw off the challenge of classmate Avery Wagman 6-3, 6-0 for Tufts. Amherst then leveled the scores at 4-4 as rising sophomore Kelsey Chen beat Tufts’ classmate Tomo Iwasaki 7-6 (1), 6-0. The contest was eventually settled when Amherst rising senior Jackie Calla defeated Calabro 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).
“The amount of heart my team played with, I’m just very proud of how we fought,” Bayard said. “Our doubles, unfortunately, we made a few too many unforced errors. Amherst did play well, but I felt we had our chances in the doubles and that really hurt us.”
Despite the defeat, Calabro had immense praise for the top two players.
“Our top two players played extremely well in singles and doubles. They came out really hot in the doubles, they beat the team they had last time. And in singles, they really got the job done,” Calabro said. “Last time, [rising sophomore] Mina [Karamercan] ended up losing and [classmate] Lauren [Louks] ended up winning in three. But this time they started off their matches really well, so I’m really proud of them.”
Unfortunately, the Jumbos were unable to repeat their upset in April over the Bowdoin Polar Bears, as their NCAA bid ended in a 5-1 defeat. Tufts fell behind 2-1 in doubles play, with the tie of the round arguably being Louks‘ and Karamercan’s 8-6 loss to rising senior, No. 12 Joulia Likhanskaia and graduating senior Tiffany Cheng. Calabro and Iwasaki recorded the Jumbos’ only win as they saw off the pair of rising seniors Kyra Silitch and Pilar Giffenig 8-2.
A day earlier, Tufts comfortably beat Colby-Sawyer 5-0 in the second round of the NCAA Championships. Tufts secured a 3-0 lead with strong play in its doubles again, giving up just two games across their three matches. Calabro and rising senior Chelsea Hayashi made sure of the victory in their singles matches, with Calabro beating rising sophomore Aislinn O’Connor 6-0, 6-1 and Hayashi beating rising junior Lauren Blanchard 6-1, 6-0.
With no graduating seniors on the team, Tufts can look forward to a strong returning class.
“The young talent combined with the experience of the returners has just been a really good combo in terms of performance and also just team dynamics,” Calabro said. “We’re just a really close team, we want to win for one another, which I think makes a huge difference.”