As the first sign of winter’s chill gripped the courts in Brunswick, Maine, this weekend, the Jumbos battled for supremacy at the Bowdoin Invitational to close out their fall season.
According to coach Kate Bayard, the results of the Bowdoin Invitational only served the players’ individual rankings. Nevertheless, Tufts returned to Medford after a strong collective performance.
“The team did really well,” senior Tomo Iwasaki said. “It was exciting because we showed a lot of improvement since our first competition in the beginning of September. To see that we were able to improve so much on our games in just six weeks is very promising.”
Two weeks ago, a handful of Jumbos — especially first-year Caroline Garrido — caught fire at the ITA Regional Tournament in Williamstown, Mass. The team continued its hot streak at Bowdoin, burning through its foes, who were left frozen in the mid-forties temperatures.
Bowdoin, Wellesley, Bates and Skidmore comprised Tufts’ competition at the Bowdoin Invitational. With a host of NESCAC opponents present, the Jumbos asserted their strength in their last outing of the season.
“In the fall, we try to get [the players] to be accountable and self-motivated even though we [coaches] are there every step of the way,” Bayard said. “The offseason means coaches aren’t allowed to be there to motivate the players, so it’s crucial that it comes from within each person and from team member to team member. Every time they go out there, it’s all about how they are making both their teammates and themselves better.”
Senior co-captain Mina Karamercan led the charge at Bowdoin, racking up victories in all six of her matches, three in singles and three in doubles. First-year Nicole Frankel also registered three singles wins, the most impressive of which came in a come-from-behind 4–6, 6–4, 10–7 result against Wellesley first-year Michaela Markwart. Meanwhile, Iwasaki and first-year Maggie Dorr each clinched two singles wins, with Iwasaki defeating Bowdoin first-year Devon Wolfe 6–1, 5–7, 10–2. Iwasaki also teamed up with her long-time doubles partner, senior co-captain Julia Keller, for a strong performance, as the duo took two of its three doubles matches, dropping just one game across its two wins.
With fresh faces playing a large role in the team’s success, it has been both exciting and crucial for the veterans and the coaching staff to rely on their talent this fall.
“Now that the first-years have really settled in at school, it’s really starting to show on the court,” Bayard said. “All of them have a huge amount of potential to make an impact this spring.”
Garrido, who reached the semifinals at the ITA Regional Tournament two weeks ago, cruised to two singles wins and three doubles wins. The Gastonia, N.C. native rotated between partners, beating teams from Bates and Bowdoin alongside Karamercan and subduing Skidmore while partnered with Frankel. Garrido’s only loss of the weekend came in singles to Skidmore first-year Dea Koiava, 6–2, 7–5.
As they move into the winter months, the Jumbos will enjoy some time off to catch up on sleep and work. However, they will not let their preparation for the spring season slide, as they look to finalize doubles pairings and crystallize team chemistry in the coming weeks. The coaching staff will also meet with each of the players individually, assessing offseason goals and preemptively overcoming any challenges.
“I’m most proud of how the team has improved throughout the fall season,” Bayard said. “Things are really starting to click, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we can put it all together this spring. It was fun to experiment with … more doubles pairings throughout the tournament, and we have some exciting doubles possibilities for spring.”
Tufts’ strong fall showing should give the team confidence to come together and will hopefully create some critical momentum even as the nets are taken down for now.
“The fall goes by pretty quickly — it’s intense, but short,” Bayard said. “The first couple of weeks [are] really about establishing the team, plus settling into the year. The greatest focus for the fall is always getting the team on the same page in terms of working together and also in terms of approaching the year from a development standpoint with the spring in mind. Once they understand this, it’s about getting the match experience in the fall and pinpointing what each person needs to develop throughout the year in order to best be able to contribute to the team.”
Tufts will resume play in the spring, as it will open with a match at conference rival Trinity in Hartford, Conn. on March 9. Iwasaki is excited for her last semester of collegiate tennis and hopes to be a contagious source of optimism and motivation to help push the team forward.
“We have a lot of potential, and we are now focusing on working hard in the offseason to be … the best that we can be when our season starts up again,” Iwasaki said.