First-year Caroline Garrido racked up four wins over the weekend at the New England Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Championships in Williamstown, Mass., where she placed third after reaching the singles semifinals.
The ITA Tournament is widely regarded as the most important tournament of the fall season and is played out on a national stage. Over 8,000 tennis players from all collegiate divisions compete in various regional championships, and the Div. I winners from each region compete at the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Surprise, Ariz. in November.
On Saturday, Garrido took down Wesleyan first-year Kristina Yu, the winner of the Tufts Invitational two weeks ago, 6–4, 3–6, 6–3, in the Round of 16. She then battled hard against Amherst first-year Jackie Bukzin, the runner-up at the Tufts Invitational, on Sunday. While Garrido fell 6–3, 6–1 to the eventual champion Bukzin, she cemented herself among the top competitors in the NESCAC and the New England region as a whole.
“Overall, we competed a lot better this past weekend [than at the Tufts Invitational],” coach Kate Bayard said. “Every Tufts player won her first-round singles match, and everyone made it to Day Two of [either] singles or doubles. Caroline had an impressive tournament, representing us into the final day in the semifinals. She showed that she’s capable of beating top players in the country and sustaining that level throughout a tournament.”
With only a few weeks of actual collegiate match experience under her belt, there is no telling how high Garrido’s potential may reach as she continues to mature under the tutelage of Bayard and senior co-captains Mina Karamercan and Julia Keller.
The rest of the team is certainly taking note, impressed by Garrido’s rapid rise through the ranks. Sophomore Kiara Rose explained how watching Garrido has motived her to achieve greater success, while also strengthening her bond to the team.
“Caroline, known affectionately as ‘Aunty Carol’ on the team, played really well,” Rose said. “She was all business on the court. She knows how to utilize the entire court, not just with killer ground strokes but also with soft touch and feel. She played incredibly, and I’m really looking forward to everyone’s performance at the Bowdoin Invitational.”
The team as a whole performed admirably at Williams, with Karamercan and first-year Maggie Dorr reaching the doubles quarterfinals before falling to Williams’ duo of senior Leah Bush and junior Chloe Henderson 8–6.
Sophomore Patricia Obeid reached the Round of 16 in singles, as did the doubles tandem of Rose and first-year Nicole Frankel.
“I do feel like we have a lot of momentum moving forward since we have improved results-wise from the Tufts Invitational a couple weeks back,” Obeid said. “All the first-years had very impressive performances in the tournament.”
Up and down the roster, the Jumbos showed more poise and tenacity on the court than in their season-opening matches, with their confidence increasing with each victory.
With nearly half of the team being first-years, the sophomore and senior players have come to expect them to deliver right away — and deliver they have.
“All of [the first-years] have won at least two matches in the tournament, both doubles and singles,” Obeid said. “Caroline’s performance was especially impressive for a [first-year], having won four straight matches in a row to make it to the semis.”
Moving forward, this resilience will serve the Jumbos well, especially as they head into their final fall exhibition at the Bowdoin Invitational on Oct. 12–13.
“I’m happy with the drastic improvement we showed overall in the last couple of weeks in the time between our invitational tourney and the ITA tournament,” Bayard said. “We showed a lot more fight at ITAs and are looking forward to taking the next step at the Bowdoin Invitational. We’ll work on staying tougher in the closer matches that can go either way. Doubles continue to get stronger.”
Though the Jumbos performed very well as a group, the ITAs are entirely individual, so the team as a whole did not walk away with any awards. Nevertheless, Tufts can keep building on its success as it works towards its main spring season when matches matter most.
Tufts will continue to stick to its practice schedule for the remainder of the fall season and plans to emphasize doubles play. Bayard hopes to find the best sets of partners to optimize her corps of players. This is particularly important given the number of first-years on the team and their maturation process as the season progresses.
“We’re not planning to make major changes,” Bayard said. “We’ll practice pressure situations in close matches for both singles and doubles. We’ll also look to strengthen doubles skills, and I’ll be playing around with doubles combos to figure out potential teams. This will continue to be a main focus, as it always is in the fall.”
With the strong showing at Williams, the team finds itself in a good place both mentally and physically as the fall season begins to wind down, which it hopes to maintain.
“I think the team’s performance at ITAs was good,” Rose said. “We all pulled through in our first round matches. Everyone who lost second round, lost in a third or a tiebreak in the second set, so clearly we competed really well.”