Sophomore Mina Karamercan clinched the 41st victory of her Tufts career in the women’s tennis team’s season opener. Seeded seventh in the singles bracket, Karamercan won two straight singles matches and was responsible for two of Tufts’ four total victories as the team finished 4-8 at the ITA Regional Tournament this weekend at MIT.
In her first round match against Valentia Medina of Suffolk University, Karamercan was forced to adjust to Medina’s unconventional style, which utilized slices and a single-handed back hand stroke. Once adjusted, Karamercan won handily 6-2, 6-3. The second round match proved less challenging for Karamercan, as she defeated Haley Cohen of Brandeis University 6-0, 6-2 and hit multiple winners.
However, Karamercan did not pull through in her third round singles match and fell to MIT opponent Lara Rakocevic 6-3, 7-5 (5).
“Because I had played a match the day before, I was really tired both physically and mentally,” Karamercan said. “I couldn’t run as well and missed some back hands, which caused me to get frustrated and start losing more points while not appreciating when I won good points. I had tired legs and my body was breaking apart with leg cramps and fatigue. Basically the mental component was a big reason why I lost; however, I think I would do much better and win if I played her again.”
Senior co-captain Conner Calabro prevailed in her first round match against sophomore Gabriela Venditti of Colby College 6-2, 6-2 despite her hiatus from tennis training.
“It was a good match, but it was definitely an adjustment to be competing again because I was unable to play any ITAs over the summer due to a full time internship,” Calabro said. “I actually hadn’t competed since the team lost the NCAAs last spring.”
Calabro fell short in her second round match on Saturday to ninth-seeded senior co-captain Hannah Atkinson of Williams College 6-1, 6-3. Atkinson also played an unconventional style as a left-handed player and had the victory in hand by the time Calabro recovered from the first set and adjusted to her style of play.
Before the tournament, the team spent the previous two weeks focusing heavily on match-play and fitness. Each player was required to run the mile under seven minutes and those that did not make the time requirement did not compete this weekend.
Two first-years made promising debuts at the tournament as well. Katherine Wiley went 1-1, winning her first collegiate match in the first round against sophomore Abbie Denney of Gordon College 6-4, 6-2, and falling short in her second match against senior Alexandra Fields of Middlebury 6-0, 6-3. Tufts first-year Afua Ofori-Darko was defeated in her singles match by the tournament’s third seed, Bowdoin senior Joulia Likhanskaia, 6-0, 6-3.
The Jumbos struggled in doubles play, losing both matches. Fourth-seeded Calabro and Karamercan lost 8-5 to Bowdoin’s double pair. In this match the Jumbos faced yet another unfamiliar playing style. Their opponents both conservatively played the baseline. This was Calabro and Karamercan’s first double match playing together, which also contributed to the loss.
“My usual doubles partner [junior Lauren Louks] is abroad this year so the problem with Conner [Calabro] was that we spent a lot of time during the match adjusting to each other’s playing styles instead of adjusting to Bowdoin’s playing style,” Karamercan said. “The motions and positioning between Conner [Calabro] and I proved to be a challenge to get used to.”
Sophomore Julia Keller and Wiley competed in a doubles match against Elizabeth Erbafina and Bella Stone of Bates College, but were defeated 8-4.
Tufts hopes to improve its doubles play for its next match, the Bowdoin Invitational on the weekend of Oct. 14th.
“We have some new players, so one focus in the fall is to get everyone more comfortable on the doubles court and to start figuring out which doubles teams may potentially be strong together,” coach Kate Bayard told the Daily in an email.
This year the team is missing two key players that serve as integral parts of its doubles play, as junior Zoe Miller and Louks are both abroad for the semester. Typically, Louks plays number one in both the singles and doubles ladder while Miller plays the number five in singles and the number three in doubles. Filling the holes these players left behind was a challenge for the Jumbos during the ITA Regional tournament, but they hope to resolve this problem and address other challenges before the next match.
“Now that we are seasoned with one competition under our belt we know what we specifically need to work on such as making more balls and working on adjusting to different game styles,” Calabro said.