Tufts improves to 6–2 with wins over Trinity, Brandeis and Bates

First-year Patricia Obeid serves in Tufts' 6–3 loss to Middlebury at the Gantcher Center on March 10. Alina Strileckis / The Tufts Daily

The No. 6 Tufts women’s tennis team (6–2) continues to battle its way through NESCAC opponents as it enters the business end of its regular season schedule. The Jumbos recorded a 9–0 rout of the Trinity Bantams on Thursday in their first match following a busy West Coast swing. The team then claimed a pair of 8–1 victories on Saturday, defeating Brandeis and Bates.

Tufts drew first blood while playing host to No. 28 Bates on Saturday afternoon, as the No. 1 doubles pairing of juniors Mina Karamercan and Otilia Popa gave up just one game in their victory over Bates senior captain Maisie Silverman and junior Bella Stone. In second doubles, the Tufts pairing of junior Tomo Iwasaki and junior co-captain Julia Keller battled hard, but ultimately fell in a tiebreaker to sophomore Lauren Hernandez and first-year Hannah Sweeney. Senior co-captain Zoe Miller and sophomore Kat Wiley picked up the slack for the Jumbos, however, winning 8–3 in the third position to spot the hosts a 2–1 lead heading into singles play.

Despite having played a full match earlier in the day, the Jumbos drew from a seemingly bottomless reservoir of energy to sweep the Bobcats in singles. Senior co-captain Lauren Louks and Keller gave Tufts a commanding lead with comfortable wins in the third and sixth positions, respectively. Louks defeated Bates sophomore Suzanne Elfman 6–1, 6–0, while Keller took one more game to defeat junior Hannah Londoner 6–1, 6–1. Soon after, Wiley clinched Tufts’ victory with a 6–1, 6–0 defeat of Bates first-year Haley Washington in fifth singles. First-year Patricia Obeid (6–2, 6–2), Karamercan (6–4, 6–2) and Iwasaki (6–3, 6–2) also added wins to run up the Jumbos’ margin of victory.

Iwasaki believes the team could take much heart out of its strong performance over the weekend.

“Obviously, the double-header weekend was very challenging, not just in terms of fitness, but also in terms of mental energy,” Iwasaki said. “I think the team did an awesome job. We started off strong at Brandeis and kept that going throughout the whole day and had two very decisive wins, so I felt that was pretty awesome.”

Coach Kate Bayard had high praise for Obeid’s recent performances.

“I’ve been extremely impressed with Patricia’s work ethic and coachability,” Bayard said. “She takes in everything we say and applies it right away. She worked hard the second she set foot on the court, and she took in all the information and feedback I gave her and just came out every minute of practice working hard on that. In the offseason, she took our advice seriously and she came back in great shape, super fit [and] ready to play.  Everything is continuing to come together for her. I’ve been extremely impressed with her improvement throughout the year, and she still has a ton of potential.”

Tufts traveled the 10 miles to Waltham, Mass. for a matchup with No. 21 Brandeis on Saturday morning. The Jumbos got off to a good start, emerging from the doubles matches with a 2–1 lead. Karamercan and Popa defeated Brandeis junior Olivia Leavitt and senior co-captain Haley Cohen 8–5 in No. 1 doubles, while Miller and Wiley saw off the challenge of first-year Rachel Zubrinsky and junior Michele Lehat 8–2 in the third spot. Again, Keller and Iwasaki were neck-and-neck with their opponents, but ultimately fell 8–6 to junior Keren Khromchenko and first-year Lauren Bertsch.

Just as they did against Bates, the Jumbos swept through the singles matches without defeat. Obeid continued the fine start to her Tufts career, dispatching Cohen 6–1, 6–3 in first singles. In the second spot, Karamercan comfortably saw off Khromchenko, taking the first set 6–1 before recording a bagel set to win the match. The sole singles match of the day to last the full three sets came in the third position, as Louks went the distance against Brandeis’ Leavitt. After winning the first set 6–4, Louks dropped the second 4–6. However, the Malibu, Calif. native responded with a 10–3 victory in the tiebreaker.

“Lauren is one of the most mentally strong and high-energy people on the team, and it really showed on Saturday when she had that really long … match against a really tough opponent,” Iwasaki said. “Then [she] was able to bounce back right away physically to take the second match without a problem.”

Two days earlier, Tufts did not drop a single set in its home match against No. 29 Trinity, romping to a 9–0 victory over its NESCAC opponent. The Jumbos’ doubles pairs survived without so much as a scratch. Karamercan and Popa continued their fine start to the season with an 8–2 victory over sophomores Julia Brogan and Jillian Winer in first doubles. Tufts also earned 8–2 and 8–3 wins in the second and third positions, respectively.

The Jumbos’ depth was on display on Thursday with Bayard rotating her top six singles players. The team’s underclassmen posted an especially impressive showing. First-year Kiara Rose defeated Trinity first-year Lily Everett 6–2, 6–1 in the fifth position, while sophomore Afua Ofori-Darko emerged with a 6–1, 6–2 victory in the sixth spot against first-year Morgan Wilkins. 

“It’s a jam-packed spring, and this year we have a lot of depth and many options in our lineup, which is very helpful — especially when we have so many back-to-back matches,” Bayard said. “It helps with our ability to rest people, if we have minor injuries, and that was the case [against Trinity]. It’s nice to have that option to rest people to make sure that they’re recovered. I’ve utilized that option this spring and it’s worked out nicely.”

Speaking after Tufts’ morning practice on Tuesday, Bayard thinks the team still has much to work on. While the Jumbos have been performing steadily in doubles play, Bayard — now in her 10th year as head coach — noted room for improvement.

“Although I see the doubles progressing and getting better, I’m not satisfied with where we are,” she said. “We’re at an okay point right now for where we are in the season, but our doubles still has ways to go. As far as actual teams, I’ve settled in with a couple of the teams, but I’m still experimenting one of the teams. Today in practice, I really liked what I saw with that new team, and I’m really excited about that.”

Tufts travels to No. 13 MIT on Friday, before gearing up for a critical doubleheader in Waterville, Maine on Sunday. The team will face top-ranked Emory in the morning and NESCAC rival Colby in the afternoon.