Tufts falls to top-ranked Emory, defeats two opponents in challenging weekend

Junior Mina Karamercan eyes the ball during a match against Middlebury at the Gantcher Center on March 10. Alina Strileckis / The Tufts Daily

When the No. 6 Tufts women’s tennis team wrapped up its away match against Colby late on Sunday evening, it marked the end of a busy weekend and the beginning of the team’s final regular season push. With its decisive 9–0 win over Colby, Tufts finished the weekend 2–1 after losing 6–3 to Emory and defeating MIT, 5–4. The Jumbos are currently 8–3 overall and 3–1 against NESCAC opponents with just five matches remaining.

The Jumbos claimed all three doubles matches against the Mules (7–4) to take an early 3–0 lead on Sunday. Playing at the No. 3 spot, senior co-captain Zoe Miller and sophomore Kat Wiley were especially dominant in their matchup against the Colby duo of junior Jamie Pine and senior Maddie Lupone. Miller and Wiley gave up just one game in a quick 8–1 victory for the Jumbos.

Thanks to its domination in doubles, Tufts needed just two wins from the six singles matches to seal a victory over its NESCAC opponent. The contest was ultimately decided after a quick 6–0, 6–0 win by senior co-captain Lauren Louks and Miller’s 6–0, 6–1 win in second and third singles, respectively. The Jumbos didn’t let up, however, winning all four remaining singles matches to sweep the Mules.

Junior co-captain Julia Keller and first-year Kiara Rose also turned in dominant performances in their respective two-set victories. At the No. 5 spot, Keller did not drop a single game to Lupone, winning 6–0, 6–0. Playing in the sixth spot, Rose recorded a 6–0, 6–1 win over first-year Isha Banerjee.

The decisive win over a NESCAC opponent was a confidence boost following Tufts’ tough 6–3 loss to Emory on Sunday. Wiley believes that frustration from the Emory result fueled Tufts’ dominant play against Colby.

“A ton of matches came off the court really quickly, everyone played super decisively and finished their matches and stayed focused the whole time,” Wiley said. “The Emory loss motivated us even more to end the day well. It was really great to have that win and regain some of our confidence.”

Heading into their match against the nation’s top-ranked team on Sunday morning, the Jumbos knew the Emory Eagles (10–4) would be tough competition. Wiley spoke of the importance of not letting rankings or records affect the team’s mindset going into the match.

“We’ve played a bunch of really good teams,” Wiley said. “I think it was just knowing that … they might be ahead of us a bit [in the rankings], but in terms of the level we were right there with them.”

Emory began the day with a strong showing in doubles, claiming an early 2–1 lead. Critically, the Jumbos avoided entering singles play in a 3–0 hole thanks to Miller and Wiley’s victory in third doubles. The match against Emory first-year Katie Chang and junior Daniela Lopez was ultimately decided by a tiebreaker, which Miller and Wiley won to secure an 8–7 (1) win.

“It was a fun match, and even though it was super close, we never felt nervous or under a ton of pressure,” Wiley said. “Both of the other doubles matches — even though we lost them — could have gone either way, so we really wanted to win ours, because obviously there is a huge difference between going down 2–1 and going down 3–0.”

Miller believes that maintaining focus and composure throughout the match keyed the victory.

“When it got down to the close points of our match, I think what we did really well was resetting after the up-and-down parts of our match,” Miller said. “There [were] a lot of switches in momentum, so we just tried to maintain a strategy of resetting after each point and after each game.”

In singles, Tufts struggled against an Emory roster that featured three of the nation’s top 30 individually ranked players heading into the season. The Jumbos dropped four of six singles matches to their talented opponents for a 6–3 loss. Playing at the No. 3 and 4 spots, respectively, Louks and junior Tomo Iwasaki each registered victories over their Emory foes.

In a back-and-forth match, Louks recorded a three-set victory over Lopez (6–1, 4–6, 6–2). After conceding the first set 6–1 to Emory senior Anna Fuhr, Iwasaki responded to win the second and third sets (6–1, 6–4) for Tufts’ third victory.

Sunday’s matches in Waterville, Maine were the second and third of the weekend for Tufts, who also visited MIT (8–1) on Friday. The Jumbos recorded an impressive 5–4 victory over the No. 13 Engineers.

Tufts claimed two of the three doubles matches to lead the hosts by one point heading into singles play. The Jumbos were led by juniors Mina Karamercan and Otilia Popa, who took down senior co-captain Elysa Kohrs and first-year Libby Rickeman, 8–4, in first doubles. Louks and first-year Patricia Obeid provided another victory in in the second spot, with an 8–2 defeat of MIT junior Kelly Zhu and sophomore Lara Rakocevic.

The Jumbos’ advantage in doubles proved decisive, as the teams split the singles matches, 3–3. Playing in the second spot on the singles ladder, Karamercan bounced back from a first-set loss to defeat Rickeman in three sets: 3–6, 6–1, 6–1. Miller’s match in fifth singles against Rakocevic ultimately secured Tufts’ victory, as the Agoura Hills, Calif. native won in straight sets (6–2, 7–5).

“Toward the end of the second set, when it started to get really close with my opponent, I think she and I both realized that it was a really crucial match,” Miller said. “I just had to maintain the strategy of not letting any of my external thoughts affect my game.”

The narrow win over a top-tier opponent will likely be crucial for the Jumbos’ confidence heading into the final stretch of their regular season. The team’s five remaining matches are all against NESCAC schools. Tufts will face No. 4 Wesleyan (5–1) in a high-profile matchup on Saturday in Middletown, Conn. before facing Hamilton (3–6) the following day.