Jumbos split matches against two top-25 teams

First-year Katherine Wiley serves during a doubles match in a home game against Brandeis on March 29. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily)

No. 7 Tufts recorded a 7-2 victory Thursday over No. 21 MIT to move to 9-2 on the season. The win came on the heels of a 9-0 loss to NESCAC rivals No. 9 Middlebury on Sunday.

Yesterday, Tufts defeated MIT to start off its run of six home matches with a comfortable 7-2 victory. MIT wrestled control of the matchup in doubles play, with junior Rena Liu and first-year Effie Jia defeating the No. 3 pair of senior co-captain Conner Calabro and sophomore Tomo Iwasaki 9-7.

The Engineers then brought the score to 2-0 as junior Dora Tzeng and sophomore Kelly Zhu defeated Tufts junior Lauren Louks and sophomore Mina Karamercan 8-6. However, Tufts first-year Katherine Wiley and sophomore Otilia Popa defeated MIT junior Sonya Das and first-year Serena Le by the same score to claw one back for the Jumbos.

Head coach Kate Bayard said she was happy with the Jumbos’ performances, even though the team went down 1-2 after the doubles.

“At No. 1 and No. 3, I thought we played a little not-to-lose, instead of playing to win it, whereas at the No. 2 spot, we stayed aggressive,” Bayard said. “I liked our teams overall though, and I was really proud of how consistent we were and how hard we fought.”

Tufts recovered to battle back in the singles, sweeping all six match-ups. In the No. 1 position, Karamercan defeated Tzeng 6-4, 6-2 to level the scores at two apiece. This was followed up with senior co-captain Alexa Meltzer’s victory at No. 4 over Le (6-2, 6-0). Tufts then took the lead with Wiley’s 6-3, 6-3 victory at No. 3 over Das, before senior Chelsea Hayashi sealed the victory at No. 6, defeating Liu 6-4, 6-4. 

Hayashi has gotten more playing time in recent weeks and was happy to have sealed the job for the team.

“I think having a bigger team definitely increases the internal competition, but I think our team does a really good job maintaining it as healthy competition and using it as motivation for each other,” Hayashi said. “I saw today as an opportunity to not let my team down, and so going out there and playing for everybody and getting the victory feels incredible.”

While victory was already secured for Tufts, Calabro also won at the fifth position as she defeated first-year Sharlene Song 6-0, 7-6 (7). In the point of the match, Calabro and Song exchanged a long rally of over 30 shots at 40-30, 5-6 on Calabro’s serve. Calabro won that rally with a cross-court shot, a moment Bayard thought was key to the momentum of that match-up. Louks then sealed a singles sweep for the Jumbos, coming from behind with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Zhu.

“The thing I was most proud of was we came back and executed today what we didn’t do so well against Middlebury,” Bayard said. “We really did a much better job of hitting a heavier ball, being more consistent in the singles.”

On Sunday, the Jumbos made the approximately 200-mile trip to Vermont to play the Middlebury Panthers (6-3) in their third NESCAC match-up this season. Despite ranking higher than their opponents, the Jumbos suffered a tough 9-0 defeat.

Bayard attributed the team’s defeat to Middlebury’s strong skills across the board.

“Middlebury was pretty relentless, making very few unforced errors – we made a lot more,” Bayard said. “In many ways, it came down to that in both the singles and the doubles. All the way through the line-up, they hit a very heavy ball with a lot of spin. They were a lot more consistent than we were and they were more patient. We just have to be willing to stay on the court a little longer.”

Bayard continued to rotate her doubles pairing in search of the best combination for the Jumbos. In doubles play, Karamercan and Keller paired up at No. 1 but fell 8-5 to first-years Skylar Schossberger and Katherine Hughes. Louks and Popa at No. 2 were defeated by senior Kaysee Orozco and first-year Catherine Blazye 8-2, while Calabro and Wiley at No. 3 lost to senior Alexandra Fields and sophomore Christina Puccinelli 8-0.

In singles play, Tufts was only able to pick up one set in the sixth singles match between Calabro and Schossberger, which ended in the the latter’s 6-1, 6-7(3), 10-6 victory. However, the match had already been decided by then. Blazye’s 6-1, 6-3 victory over senior co-captain Alexa Meltzer in the fourth position was followed up by No. 17 Fields who defeated Tufts’ Karamercan 6-4, 6-2 in the No. 1 singles match.

Keller was defeated 6-3, 6-3 by sophomore Molly Paradies in the fifth position, while Louks fell to the No. 41 Puccinelli 6-3, 6-2 in the second position. Wiley also experienced defeat, losing to first-year Heather Boehm 6-1, 6-4.

Calabro explained that despite the Jumbos’ best efforts, it was difficult to recover from being down 3-0.

“In the singles we were super fired up, but we fell culprit to the same thing [as in the doubles],” she said. “We weren’t making the same balls as they were, and they’re very good in that when they get the opportunity. They stay composed, and they [finish the point off].”

Tufts is back on Voute Courts this weekend, as it welcomes No. 1 Emory on Friday and No. 6 Wesleyan on Saturday. Hayashi said she was hopeful that the Jumbos could beat both of these teams — and any team, for that matter.

“It’s just a matter of what we bring that day, especially this weekend because they’re two tough opponents,” Hayashi said. “Having the confidence and belief is key. More tangibly, doubles is going to be important to set off the tone for both days, just moving into singles [while] being up in doubles is helpful.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said Calabro and Song exchanged shots at deuce, but the score was actually 40-30. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.