Jumbos win four straight behind new doubles pairings

Senior Jacqueline Baum prepares to return a shot during a doubles match in a home game against Brandeis on March 29. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily

No. 7 Tufts is on a four-match winning streak, moving to 8-1 for the season with its recent 7-2 victory over Wellesley on Wednesday. This came on the back of Tufts’ double-header weekend, which it handled with relative ease as it won 8-1 at Bates before making the trip to Colby to win 9-0.

Coach Kate Bayard took the opportunity to rotate her starting doubles pairings on Wednesday. Junior Lauren Louks and sophomore Otilia Popa remained paired together at No. 2, sophomores Mina Karamercan and Tomo Iwasaki teamed up at No. 1 and senior co-captain Conner Calabro and classmate Jacqueline Baum were put together at No. 3, resuming a partnership that last played their sophomore year.

The switch-up yielded positive results for Tufts. Louks and Popa dominated senior Andjela Stojkovic and first-year Sarah Yan 8-2 to give Tufts the lead, before the No. 1 pair of senior Carina Chen and sophomore Justine Huang defeated Karamercan and Iwasaki 8-6. Calabro and Baum then put Tufts back in front with a tight 9-7 victory, coming back from 6-1 down to defeat sophomore Rosanne Hu and first-year Selina Peng.

“The last time Jacqueline [Baum] and I played together was at Wellesley in our sophomore year, so it’s like a full circle,” Calabro said. “I love playing with another senior because we have the same hunger to do our best … Our energy did really well yesterday, because we were down by a lot. We couldn’t get a rhythm, but our feistiness and discipline [meant we knew] that we weren’t going to lose, and it’s just great to have another win with another senior.”

Bayard expects the switching to be a constant factor throughout the season.

“We’re going match-by-match in every way, just taking one match at a time, regrouping, reassessing and figuring out what we need to do for the next match,” Bayard said. “Lauren [Louks] and Mina [Karamercan] finished No. 6 in the country last year, and they’re a great team, and in the future I might put them back together, but right now I’m just trying to figure out the three best combinations that give us the best shot at every single slot.”

Popa thinks that the team’s doubles play continues to be a growing strength.

“One of our strengths is being able to communicate well with each other, so any doubles team can have any pairing and start right away to be an effective team without that little transition period,” Popa said. “I think we’ve really improved our net game the past year or so. We’ve become aggressive at the net and [are] using that as a strength.”

Louks defeated Yan 6-2, 6-1 in the singles, before Huang defeated Iwasaki 6-4, 6-3 to claw one back. However, Tufts won the remaining four singles matches. Karamercan overcame a first set defeat to beat Chen 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, before Calabro clinched victory with a 6-4, 6-0 defeat of Peng. Senior co-captain Alexa Meltzer defeated Stojkovic 6-3, 6-3, while sophomore Julie Keller defeated classmate Sojin Ki 6-0, 6-0.

Tufts recorded an 8-1 victory over Bates on Saturday afternoon to kick off a marathon double-header. The No. 3 pair of Calabro and Iwasaki got Tufts off to a bright start with an 8-1 victory over senior Kate Rosenthal and first-year Lauren Hernandez, while Louks and Popa won their match 8-5. In the tightest of the three double matches, Karamercan and Wiley fell 8-6 to junior Maisie Silverman and sophomore Isabella Stone to give Bates a way back into the competition.

With the exception of Meltzer’s match, which ended with her opponent’s retirement, Tufts dominated the singles competition, winning all of its matches in straight sets. Louks was first to finish as she defeated senior Elizabeth Erbafina 6-3, 6-1. Iwasaki then followed up her doubles victory with a 6-3, 7-5 defeat of Stone. The Jumbos’ victory was then sealed when No. 1 Karamercan defeated Silverman 7-6 (5), 6-2.

“The depth of our team really came through strong,” Bayard said. “I was happy with how we performed overall, especially with playing on two very different surfaces at Bates and Colby. We’re prepared for the fast surface at Bates … and we hopped right to playing Colby on a different surface, so I was proud of how my team adjusted right away to the slower surface.”

A few hours later, the team scored a clean 9-0 sweep of Colby College. Tufts recovered from its 2-1 doubles defeat by Brandeis as it swept the doubles series. While Calabro and Iwasaki continued the development of their chemistry with a 8-4 victory over sophomores Aleks Piibe and Emily Dyckman, Bayard rotated the Nos. 1 and 2 pairings. Louks and Popa defeated sophomore twins Gabby and Lydia Venditti 8-3, while Karamercan and Baum defeated sophomore Jamie Pine and junior Maddie Lupone 8-2.

The Jumbos demonstrated their strength in depth as well in the singles, handing starts to Keller and senior Chelsea Hayashi in the fifth and sixth position matches. The duo did not disappoint. Keller defeated Pine 6-0, 6-1 to seal the victory for the Jumbos – she was the second singles player to finish after Karamercan – while Hayashi went one game better, defeating Dyckman in straight sets. In fact, Tufts did not drop a single set in each of its singles matches, losing just 14 games on the way to victory.

According to Calabro, the rotation was useful for team chemistry.

“That was good because it gave people a little break, giving the opportunity to more people to play more than they usually do,” Calabro said. “And for people who usually play and get support, to give support to the people who are always energetic and cheering on the sidelines was really great for our team.”

The team is back in action at Middlebury on Sunday before a stretch of six matches at home.

“We’re looking at starting out strong [and] getting lots of energy in the doubles right away,” Popa said. “If a point doesn’t go our way, which, a ton might not, because they’re a great team and they can come up with good shots, just brush it off, next point, and stay with our game plan.”