Tufts rallies to defeat Amherst after tough loss to Wesleyan

Junior co-captain Julia Keller lines up a forehand shot at the MIT Invitational on Sept. 16, 2017. Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily Archives

The No. 6 Tufts women’s tennis team (10–4, 5–2 NESCAC) powered through its second straight weekend of multiple away matches, falling 6–3 to Wesleyan on Saturday before rallying the following day to defeat Hamilton, 9–0. Two days later, the Jumbos downed the Amherst Mammoths in a close 5–4 match.

Tufts and No. 8 Amherst (8–6) faced off in the Gantcher Center on Tuesday evening. Last season, the Jumbos beat the Mammoths for the very first time in the 21st century, grabbing an exciting 5–4 win at home. History repeated itself on Tuesday, as the hosts once again edged out the Mammoths by a single point. The match came down to senior co-captain Lauren Louks’ match at No. 2 singles, and the Malibu, Calif. native didn’t disappoint. Louks played a thrilling come-from-behind match and managed to capture the victory in three sets. Her 4–6, 6–3, 6–4 marathon match against senior Victoria Ip finished just past 9 p.m. and secured a 5–4 win for the home squad.

Junior Mina Karamercan also produced a major upset of her own, defeating Amherst sophomore Camille Smukler, 6–4, 6–2, in first singles. The Jumbos also earned a point at the third spot, as junior Tomo Iwasaki bested sophomore Maddie Dewire, 6–3, 6–0.

The singles wins were much needed after the Mammoths grabbed a 2–1 lead in the doubles matches. In second doubles, Ip and junior Jane Fraley defeated the Jumbos’ pairing of Louks and first-year Patricia Obeid by a tight 9–8 (6) scoreline. Meanwhile, Tufts senior co-captain Zoe Miller and sophomore Kat Wiley lost 8–4 to Dewire and Smukler in the No. 3 position. Fortunately, Karamercan and junior Otilia Popa were able to squeeze past the Amherst duo of senior Avery Wagman and sophomore Anya Ivenitsky, 9–7.

Heading into Tuesday’s match, Tufts was determined to rebound from its disappointing loss to NESCAC opponent Wesleyan on Saturday.

“We want to take what we learned during the Wesleyan match and apply it to Amherst,” Iwasaki said before Tuesday’s battle. “Amherst is a tough team, but we know we are just as talented.”

The same confident mentality boosted the group to a dominant win over Hamilton (3–7) on Sunday. The Jumbos defeated the Continentals, 9–0, in Clinton, N.Y.

“We were playing indoors, meaning we only had four courts, so we were trying our best to win quickly and efficiently,” Louks said.

The team certainly accomplished its goal, losing only seven games across all of its three doubles matches. Miller and Wiley teamed up to serve Hamilton senior Katherine McNally and first-year Ndanu Mutisya a bagel in No. 3 doubles. The No. 2 pairing of Iwasaki and Louks defeated their opponents 8–4, while Karamercan and Popa won in the No. 1 spot, 8–3, to give the visitors a 3–0 lead.

The positive trend continued in the singles competition, with Miller besting first-year Ajla Karabegovic, 6–1, 6–2 in the No. 4 position. Karamercan secured the match for the Jumbos with a double bagel (6–0, 6–0) in her dominant takedown of junior Jane Haffer in first singles. The match marked Karamercan’s 12th win of the season. Her only two losses have come against Middlebury sophomore Catherine Blayze (ranked 24th nationally entering the season) and against Emory senior captain Bridget Harding, ranked seventh nationally.

The remaining four singles matches wrapped a nice bow around the Jumbos’ victory. Junior co-captain Julia Keller overpowered McNally with another double bagel in sixth singles, Wiley defeated Mutisya 6–3, 6–1 in the fifth spot and Iwasaki took down Hamilton first-year Audrey Chor 6–4, 6–1 at No. 3. Louks initially struggled against first-year Sophia Aulicino in second singles, allowing the first set to reach a tiebreak. However, she quickly won the second set, securing Tufts’ clean sweep with a 7–6 (2), 6–2 victory.

“[Aulicino] came out really strong, and I was having a hard time adjusting to the speed of the courts at first because they were really fast,” Louks said. “Once I started getting more consistent with my returns, I was able to better set myself up for points.”

Dominating Hamilton built up Tufts’ confidence and gave the team an opportunity to work on the poorer aspects of its loss to Wesleyan a day earlier. The Jumbos faced off against the No. 5 Cardinals (8–1) in Middletown, Conn. on Saturday, where they were served a tough 6–3 loss.

The battle began with a Wesleyan win in No. 3 doubles, as senior co-captains Helen Klass-Warch and Nicole McCann outplayed Iwasaki and Keller, 8–3. The Jumbos responded in second doubles, with Louks and first-year Patricia Obeid topping first-years Alissa Nakamoto and Polina Kiseleva, 8–2. The final doubles match was awarded to the hosts, as senior co-captain Eunice Chong — who entered the season ranked first in singles — and junior Victoria Yu defeated Karamercan and Popa, 8–5.

The Jumbos quickly faced a 3–1 deficit as Obeid, down 4–0, retired from her No. 1 singles match against Chong due to a back injury. Wesleyan clinched the match with two more singles wins, as Kiseleva downed Iwasaki in fourth singles (6–1, 6–2), and Nakamoto defeated Miller in fifth singles, 6–2, 6–2. First-year Kiara Rose fell to Klass-Warch in No. 6 singles, 6–0, 6–1.

Karamercan and Louks produced the Jumbos’ lone singles victories at the second and third positions, respectively. Karamercan registered an exciting comeback victory against Yu after losing the first set, 2–6.

“I was making a ton of [unforced] errors in the first set, and [Yu] just didn’t,” Karamercan said. “Her game was very consistent and passive, and it kind of threw me off. Once I figured out how to play against her in the middle of the first set, it was easy.”

Moving her opponent around with more consistent play helped Karamercan capture the second set, 6–2, and then the decider, 10–5. Meanwhile, Louks defeated senior co-captain Aashli Budhiraja comfortably (6–0, 6–3).

Tufts will face No. 2 Williams (13–0) at home on April 28 in more NESCAC play, before finishing the regular season with a crucial match at Bowdoin (8–9) the following day.