No. 8 Tufts fell to the No. 1 team in the nation, Emory, 7-2 on Friday to continue its six-match home sequence. However, the team recovered the next day to defeat No. 6 Wesleyan in a thrilling 6-3 victory. With these weekend results, Tufts moves to a 10-3 record for the season and is now 3-1 in NESCAC play.
On Saturday, against the Wesleyan Cardinals, the doubles matches all went 8-6 to the victors. While the Wesleyan pair of juniors, Helen Klass-Warch and Nicole McCann, defeated Tufts’ senior co-captain Conner Calbro and sophomore Tomo Iwasaki, the No. 1 and No. 2 pairs put Tufts up 2-1 going into singles play.
Sophomore Mina Karamercan and junior Lauren Louks resumed their partnership from last year, defeating junior Eudice Chong and first-year Julia Kim, while first-year Katherine Wiley and sophomore Otilia Popa secured victory over junior Aashli Budhiraja and sophomore Victoria Yu.
Karamercan was unable to follow up her doubles victory in the singles as she fell to No. 3 Chong, the top-ranked player in the NESCAC, 6-4, 6-3. Wiley then put the Jumbos back in front with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Klass-Warch.
Senior co-captain Alexa Meltzer completed her match over McCann in the fifth position 6-4, 7-5 to put Tufts within one match of victory, which was sealed at the third position when Iwasaki clawed from one set down to defeat Budhiraja 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the following sets.
The remaining two matches were completed over three sets: Calabro took the first set 6-2 but lost the next two sets to junior Dasha Dubinsky 6-4, 6-1, while Louks defeated Yu 7-5, 6-0 in the first and third sets falling 6-4 in the second.
Coach Kate Bayard said the team’s composure was the biggest takeaway from the day.
“I’ve seen it from some people at different times, but overall our team was just composed [against Wesleyan] and that’s what it came down to,” Bayard said. “We played the bigger points in a composed way overall, and as a team, that made a huge difference.”
Iwasaki agreed that the defeat the day before provided fuel for the victory over Wesleyan, which allowed the team to avenge last year’s narrow 5-4 defeat against Wesleyan in Middletown, Conn.
“I think that Emory match left us feeling hungry for the next day,” Iwasaki said. “I think it definitely showed on the court, especially during doubles and just throughout the match. We were looking to each other, cheering each other on after a loss like that [against Emory], using it as motivation rather than letting it get us down.”
The day before, the Jumbos fell 7-2 to the seven-time national champion Emory Eagles. Tufts lost all three of the doubles matches by very close margins. Calabro and Iwasaki lost 8-6 to seniors Michelle DeMeo and Paula Castro in doubles, Karamercan and Louks lost to No. 1 doubles pair junior Bridget Harding and senior Katarina Su 8-5, and Wiley and Popa lost to No. 12 pair sophomore Daniela Lopez and senior Michelle Satterfield 9-7.
Lopez then solidified Emory’s advantage with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Iwasaki in the No. 3 singles’ position. Calabro’s singles match finished next, as she lost 6-2, 6-2 to Castro. The victory for the Eagles was finally sealed at No. 4 when Su defeated Wiley 6-1, 6-1. Meltzer, however, put the Jumbos on the board with a 6-4, 6-1 win against Melissa Goodman. This was followed by Satterfield’s 6-3, 6-2 victory over Louks.
However, in the shock result of the weekend, Karamercan overcame Harding, the No. 1 player in Div. III, 6-4, 6-2. Karamercan dominated on the court, setting up her victory with powerful crosscourt forehand shots that even a player of Harding’s quality found hard to return.
“Mina’s extremely talented, and I love the way she’s been competing lately. As she proved against Emory, she’s capable of beating anyone out there,” Bayard said. “The biggest thing that drives her right now is just her desire to perform well for her teammates. I’m so impressed with her game, how hard she works on the court and her talent. I’m excited to continue to see her compete.”
Despite the defeat, Bayard believes the team only benefits from playing difficult opponents like the defending national champions.
“The best way to get better and tougher [against] those teams is just to play those teams,” Bayard said. “I’m hoping we’d get another shot at Emory or Middlebury at some point, that’s the best practice – getting used to every ball coming back, realizing that every single point is a battle.”
Tufts has five more matches to play in the regular season, with all of the team’s opponents coming from the conference itself. The Jumbos will take on No. 12 Amherst on Wednesday.
Iwasaki said that the team is in prime condition to persevere from here.
“Physically, we all look really good. None of us are getting tired out, and mentally we’re getting better with each match and using each match as a learning tool and as motivation to do better in the next one,” Iwasaki said. “If we continue to do that, which I think we will, we’re going to be [in] great shape in the next five matches.”