Sagehen women’s tennis stands at 4-3 after a spring break consisting of five consecutive days of matches. The Hens swept UC Santa Cruz 9-0 before falling to Trinity University 7-2 and to Fairleigh Dickinson 9-0 over the first weekend. They rebounded March 12 to defeat Bowdoin 5-4 and finally fell to Carnegie Mellon 7-2 March 13.
“The spring break week was a really tough schedule with five matches in five days but I think our players learned a lot from the experience,” Assistant Coach Becca Lange said.
Ellie Shanholt PO ’12, a senior captain, also felt that the matches were a great learning experience.
“Obviously, it would have been nice to come away with a 5-0 record from the week, but we are just starting our season, and we now know where we can improve,” Shanholt said. “At the end of the day, we want to make it to Regionals and then Nationals.”
“Spring break is like a marathon with matches every day against nationally top ranked teams,” Samantha Chao PO ’14 said.
The Hens did not lose a set in their victory over UC Santa Cruz, despite some close singles matches. Jamie Solomon PZ ’13 defeated her opponent 7-5, 6-4 in a long match that pitted two of the most consistent players in the region.
The Hens fell March 10 to Trinity 7-2. The first doubles squad (Solomon and Kara Wang PO ’13) and third doubles squad (Nicole Holsted PO ’12 and Emily Kawahara PZ ’12) lost close matches, but Chao and Arthi Padmanabhan PO ’14 won their doubles match 8-2 at the second spot, putting the Sagehens at 1-2 going into singles. Trinity won in straight sets in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth spots. At the top spot, Solomon split sets and lost a ten-point tiebreak, which was played instead of a full third. Chao was the only Hen to come away with a singles win at the second spot, defeating her opponent 7-5, 6-2.
The Hens traveled to Palm Springs March 11 to compete in a round robin tournament of Division I schools in which a spot had opened up. The Hens rested the normal lineup, allowing them to take a break for a day, while giving some of the other team members a chance to compete against a strong team. Although the result was a 9-0 loss, the team felt the experience was valuable.
Especially strong showings came from Jessica Hsu PO ’13 and Kira Woods PO ’15, who played doubles together at the top spot on Sunday and lost a close match 8-5. Hsu fell 6-4, 6-3 at the first singles position while Woods nearly defeated her opponent at the third spot, as she split sets and eventually fell 10-8 in the ten-point tiebreak.
The Sagehens returned to the Pauley courts Monday and edged Bowdoin College, ranked 15th nationally, with a score of 5-4. The Hens swept doubles, going up 3-0. Chao and Padmanabhan finished their doubles with an 8-2 win, followed by an 8-6 victory from Solomon and Wang. Holsted and Kawahara narrowly won at the third doubles spot with a score of 9-7.
In singles, Bowdoin took straight set wins at the first, fourth, fifth and sixth spots to put the Hens at a 4-3 deficit. At the second spot, Chao came back from 0-4 to take the first set 6-4 and completed her dominant performance by winning her second set 6-3. Her match finished as Padmanabhan split sets at the third spot.
With the match tied at 4-4, the result was dependent on the third set at the third singles spot, which got to 6-6 and went into a tiebreak. After defending five match points, Padmanabhan finally won 13 -11.
The Sagehens fell Tuesday to Carnegie Mellon 7-2. The two wins came at the second doubles and second singles spots. In doubles, Chao and Padmanabhan won 8-2. In singles, despite some close matches, the only win came from Chao, who won 6-3, 2-6, 6-1. Solomon played a well-fought match at the top spot, falling 10-8 in the ten-point tiebreaker after splitting sets, while Kristin Brikmanis PO ’14 had a strong showing at the sixth spot, capturing the first set before eventually falling 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
The coaches and players feel that the matches were a great learning experience, as the team now has many matches to reflect on moving forward.
“It was inspiring to see our lower lineup step up against the DI team of Fairleigh Dickinson and also Arthi pull out two third set wins to win the match for us [against Vassar and Bowdoin]. I think it was great for everyone watching to get inspired to perform at that same level,” Lange said.
The players also noted improvement throughout the week.
“By the end of the week, Jamie was playing the best I have seen of her, and our sophomores are leading the team,” Shanholt said. “Sammy and Arthi are playing the best doubles I have ever seen them, and they have really stepped it up in singles, with Sammy refusing to lose and Arthi winning us the match in third setters twice now.”
“We’ve improved with each match, and I’m excited for the matches still to come,” Chao said. “We still have a lot more of our season ahead of us and I have faith that we will continue to be successful.”
The team heads into another three matches to end this week.
“We’ll have three matches in a row this weekend as well so they can draw upon their experiences from spring break,” Lange said. “Plus, the five days off after the matches should have been good reflection time for them as well. I’m excited to see what the team will do next in the rest of our season.”
The Hens are still trying to look after injuries this season. Kara Wang, a strong force in both singles and doubles, was limited to competing only in doubles throughout spring break.
“Injuries seem to be contagious on our team, but if we can stay healthy, I think we will be hard to beat,” Shanholt said.
The Hens face Puget Sound today at 2 p.m. and Amherst tomorrow at 11 a.m.