Tufts defeats Wellesley, falls to Middlebury in opening weekend of spring season

Junior Mina Karamercan returns a backhand shot during Tufts' 6–3 loss to Middlebury at the Gantcher Center on March 10. Alina Strileckis / The Tufts Daily

On the first weekend of its spring season, the Tufts women’s tennis team went 1–1, falling 6–3 to Middlebury at home on Saturday and defeating Wellesley 9–0 in an away match on Sunday.

On Sunday, the Jumbos visited the Blue for their second match of the weekend. Last time the two teams met, on April 5, 2017, Tufts defeated Wellesley 7–2 on the road. This time, the Jumbos were even more decisive in their victory, recording a resounding 9–0 win over the hosts.

Tufts got wins from all three doubles pairs to enter the singles matches with a 3–0 lead. The Jumbos were led by senior co-captains Zoe Miller and Lauren Louks, who recorded an 8–0 thumping of Wellesley first-year Michelle Buyer and junior Sojin Ki in the third position. Junior Mina Karamercan partnered with junior Otilia Popa in first doubles, while sophomore Kat Wiley and first-year Patricia Obeid joined forces in the second position. Both teams won their matches 8–4.

In singles, Obeid played as Tufts’ No. 1 for the second day in a row. Despite being in the rare position of playing first singles during her first weekend of collegiate tennis, the New York native maintained excellent composure in recording two wins in as many days. Against Wellesley, Obeid cruised to a 6–4, 6–2 win over junior Justine Huang.

“That’s pretty unusual, but she did super well,” Wiley said. “She didn’t look nervous or overwhelmed. It was really fun to watch.”

Obeid discussed how important it was for her to stay focused amid the excitement of the weekend.

“I was very excited to take on the challenge because I have worked really hard,” Obeid said. “It was important for me to keep my composure and make sure my opponent didn’t know what I was thinking and feeling on the court. The minute an opponent knows you are nervous, they can use that as an advantage.”

Playing in the No. 5 singles spot, Wiley defeated Wellesley first-year Lily Chu in a decisive two-set match: 6–1, 6–0. Wiley’s experience of having played on the singles ladder as a first-year in 2017 was evident in her on-court confidence throughout the weekend.

“Comparing my first matches last year to this year, I was definitely a lot less overwhelmed this year and I felt more comfortable,” Wiley said. “I’m just a lot more familiar with college matches in general. Having the experience under my belt is pretty beneficial.”

Despite the match against Wellesley being the team’s second of the weekend, Tufts did not show signs physical or mental fatigue, which is a testament to their careful preparation.

“We definitely trained for these types of scenarios,” Miller said. “A few weeks ago, we had a five-hour practice in anticipation of long matches. We think of it as a privilege to get to play these matches, and this is what we train for.”

Wiley believes that Saturday’s loss to the Middlebury Panthers actually helped the Jumbos on Sunday, since it caused them to play with even more determination and purpose.

“In a way, losing to Middlebury the day before was kind of helpful because I think we were just as good as them, if not better, and we all knew that,” Wiley said. “We took that into account [against Wellesley], and we knew we didn’t want to have a similar situation happen again. We just went there and took care of business.”

On Saturday, Tufts opened its spring season with a home match against Middlebury. After falling to the Panthers 9–0 on the road last season, the match was an important early test for the Jumbos.

In first doubles, Karamercan and Popa defeated the 17th-ranked pair of sophomores Skylar Schossberger and Katherine Hughes, 8–4, to give Tufts an early advantage. However, the remaining two doubles matches went in the Panthers’ favor, giving the hosts a 2–1 lead heading into singles play. Louks and Rose battled their opponents to the end but ultimately fell in a 9–7 nail-biter.

Obeid and Wiley were the only two Tufts players to record wins in their singles matches, as Middlebury secured a 6–3 victory. Playing first singles in her spring debut for the Jumbos, Obeid fought relentlessly to defeat Hughes 7–6, 6–4. Obeid’s mental toughness was especially evident in the second set, when she came back from a 4–0 deficit, winning six straight games to clinch the match.

“I just remembered to pause and think about my game,” Obeid said. “I felt like I was on the defensive a lot and not playing how I was in the first set.”

Wiley defeated Schossberger in straight sets, 6–2, 6–2 in the fifth position, but Tufts failed to record any other wins. Louks fell in three sets (4–6, 7–6, 6–3) to Middlebury junior Christina Puccinelli, while Tufts first-year Kiara Rose lost a third-set tiebreaker to sophomore Maddi Stow (3–6, 6–3, 10–8).

Although the Jumbos were disappointed by Saturday’s outcome, knowing they had competed well against a top-level team left them optimistic about the rest of the season.

“It was really exciting that [Middlebury] was the first match of our season,” Miller said. “It set the tone for knowing that we’re right in it with the competition and that all of our training in the offseason paid off. We really saw it in how we fought against Middlebury.”

This was the first time in recent years that the Jumbos have played matches before their annual spring break trip, and Miller believes that the team is heading to the West Coast on a positive note.

“It was exciting to see how the team is looking before spring break,” Miller said. “I think we are doing really well. It is great [to have] momentum because we are going to have some really tough matches.”

Tufts’ next match will be played in Northridge, Calif. against Whitman College on March 18.