Back from California, women’s tennis to play home games against Bowdoin, Wesleyan

Senior Otilia Popa prepares to return a shot during a doubles match in the women’s tennis home game against Williams at the Voute Tennis Courts on Apr. 28, 2018. (Ben Kim /The Tufts Daily)

The No. 8 Tufts women’s tennis team (3–2, 2–0 NESCAC) returned from their spring trip to Southern California last Sunday. With five games in a week across the Los Angeles area, the team was on the move.

On March 23, Tufts fell to No. 4 Pomona-Pitzer 7–2 in the team’s final spring break match-up. All three doubles matches were close-run occasions, with Tufts losing by no more than two points. With the stage set after a sweep in the doubles, Pomona clinched the win with victories at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. Despite the team’s defeat, first-years Caroline Garrido and Nicole Frankel recorded victories in singles in three sets for Tufts.

“I did not get to play many singles before that day, so I was really pumped to play,” Frankel said. “Everyone else finished before me, and so my team was watching my match, there was a lot of excitement and cheering and the good type of pressure.”

Sophomore Patricia Obeid spoke about Frankel’s standout performance and the excitement from watching her play.

“I was very impressed by the way she played on that day; she was out there for a while. It was really exciting to cheer her on at the very end. I’d say she was the standout player of the day,” Obeid said.

A day before, the Jumbos won their match against NESCAC rivals and No. 5-ranked Williams. The Ephs were semifinalists in last year’s national tournament. In a inspiring upset, the Jumbos beat the Ephs, ending an 28-year winning drought against the Ephs, dating back to 1991.

The No. 1 doubles pair, comprised of first-year standout stars Maggie Dorr and Garrido, won their match 8–3 against Williams’ senior Leah Bush and junior Chloe Henderson, the eighth-best duo in the country at the end of the fall season.

The victory lifted the team’s hopes and confidence and carried the team through the match. Frankel swiftly defeated her opponent 6–4,  6–2. Senior Tomo Iwasaki won her match 7–6, 6–2 at the second position, putting the Jumbos up 4–1. No. 3 Obeid won her match 6–3, 6–1, clinching the Jumbos’ victory.

On March 19, the Jumbos faced the No. 2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas, losing 9–0. Doubles duo Riley and Lowry put up the most points in a match, losing by only two points, 8–6.  The Athenas, who were last year’s Div. III champions, demonstrated their superiority in the match.

The team’s California saga began with a hard-fought 5–4 win against Redlands Bulldogs of Redlands, Calif. On the doubles front, the Jumbos lost two of their three matches. First-year No. 6 Anna Lowy and junior Kat Riley were the sole doubles winners for the Jumbos.  The Jumbos won their first singles match courtesy of Lowy 6–1, 6–0 to level the overall match score at 2–2.

Iwasaki won her match, winning the first set in tiebreakers (7–3) and finishing the second set 6–1.  Iwasaki’s victory tied the team with the Bulldogs 3–3.  The last three matches of the day were intense games of catch and chase. At No. 3, Obeid beat opponent Jackie Lacy in tiebreakers 7–2, earning the Jumbos’ first lead of the day at 4–3. Riley, the No. 4 seed, lost to her opponent Karen Kobayashi in tiebreakers 6–4.  At No. 5, Kiara Rose clinched the win for the Jumbos with her match also going into tiebreakers, 6–2.

Obeid commented on her teammates playing both single and doubles matches.

“Our coach [Kate Bayard] does not want us, the players, to know what we’re playing in advance because she does not want us to think about it too much,” Obeid said. “Coach Bayard will usually let us know the day of the match what we are playing.  This strategy makes sense because if she tells us in advance, then you are left wondering why you are placed where she placed you. When you’re stepping onto the court and coach tells you last minute what you are playing, there is no time to think about her decision and all you have to do is focus what you’re about to do on the court.”

According to Frankel, when the team had some spare time during the trip, they would practice on public courts around the Los Angeles area to refine their skills.

“We grinded out there,” Frankel said. “We practiced a bunch of doubles and as a group.  We also played a little bit of queen of the court [a fun tennis game] and some hitting practice so we could get in the groove.”

Nevertheless, the trip also had a relaxing side; during the rest of their free time, the players would eat out together and visit famous sites around Los Angeles. Frankel spoke about the bonding experiences she had throughout the trip.

“I feel like we got to know each other a lot better because we spent a lot of time together off the court, sometimes doing day trips around Cali; we went to Laguna Beach one day and then another day we went to Newport Beach,” Frankel said. “It was my first time in Cali so it was all exciting.”

Tufts plays conference rival and No. 10-ranked Bowdoin on Friday at 3 p.m. on the Voute Tennis Courts, followed by another home match against Wesleyan on Sunday at the same time.