Four pairs from the women’s tennis team made their way to Amherst for the New England Women’s Intercollegiate Tennis (NEWITT) tournament this past weekend.
NEWITT competitions have a slightly different format than most other tournaments. Teams of two play a doubles pro set, and then each member of the team plays against a member of the opposing team in two additional singles matches. To advance to the next round, a team must win at least two matches of the three.
Wesleyan had one team in the Gail Smith (Flight A) Division, while the other three pairs participated in the Chris Davis (Flight B) Division.
Clare DuBrin ’16 joined forces with Olivia Koh ’17 in the A Division, while Grace Smith ’14 and Kiley Robbins ’14, Nicki Softness ’14, and Maddie James ’16, and Ella Lindholm-Uzzi ’17 and Cameron Arkin ’17 teamed up in the B Division.
DuBrin and Koh were up against a strong pair from Amherst of Sue Ghosh and Safi Aly. They were shut out 8-0 in the doubles pro set. DuBrin then played against Ghosh, dropping the match 6-4, 6-0. Koh struggled against Aly and was defeated 6-2, 6-4.
“I think that, in that first match, they were just a bit outgunned,” said Head Coach Michael Fried. “They played well, but [they] just ran into too much firepower.”
Fried was particularly impressed by freshman Koh’s performance before the tournament. Usually, Smith links up with DuBrin for the doubles set.
“We switched it up; I think that Olivia was playing particularly good tennis coming into the tournament,” Fried said. “She and Clare were playing some good doubles in practice and [Assistant Coach Steve Milo and I] wanted to see how well they competed together as a team in the tournament.”
The Cardinals had much better luck in the B division. Even though Lindholm-Uzzi and Arkin were defeated in the first round, the pair of Smith and Robbins showed a great deal of strength to reach the quarterfinals, and Softness and James performed splendidly and plowed through to the finals.
Smith and Robbins took on a pair from Wheaton, winning the doubles 8-1. Smith then defeated Caroline DiNicola-Fawley 6-1, 6-1, and Robbins made short work of Gracie Stark and won her match 6-0, 6-2.
The duo then defeated the Mount Holyoke pair of Zehra Kahn and Whitney Schott. They fought well to defeat the Lyons 8-5 in the doubles. Smith routed Kahn 6-1, 6-0 and Robbins defeated Schott 6-2, 6-1 in their singles match.
However, Smith and Robbins ran into trouble in their quarterfinal match. The duo faced a pair of Amherst students and lost the doubles 8-3. Smith was defeated by Amanda Zalameda 6-0, 6-2 and Robbins dropped her match against Maddy Sung 6-0, 6-1. The Jeffs pair would eventually win the B division.
The freshman tandem of Lindholm-Uzzi and Arkin succumbed to Simmons College freshman pair Theresa Reinhard and Sofie Epshtein in the first round. Wesleyan dropped the doubles match 8-3. Lindholm-Uzzi was marginally outplayed by Epshtein as she dropped her match 7-6, 6-3. Arkin defeated Reinhard 6-3, 6-4, but it was not enough to get past the Simmons team.
Softness and James proved to be the most successful Cards. After handling their matches in the first round, they faced Trinity, famililar opponents, in the second round. The Bantams proved to be a difficult matchup, but the pair was able to oust the Bantams duo 8-3. Softness then faced a tough challenge and was defeated by Elizabeth Gerber 6-1, 3-6, (10-2) in her singles match. However, James felled Merritt Piro 6-3, 6-3 in her singles match, and the Cards were able to pull through to the next round with an aggregate score of 2-1.
The Redbirds then faced the Simmons pair that eliminated Lindholm-Uzzi and Arkin. In a tough matchup, they were able to scrape past Reinhard and Epshtein 8-6 in the doubles, while Softness defeated Reinhard 6-3, 7-6 and James just managed to triumph Epshtein 6-7, 6-4, (11-9).
Softness and James then defeated Brandeis pair Roberta Bergstein and Sarita Biswas 8-6 in the doubles. James was bested by Biswas 6-2, 4-6, (10-3) in her singles match, but Softness recovered from the loss and defeated Bergstein 6-3, 6-3. The Cards emerged as finalists with another 2-1 advantage.
Unfortunately, the duo’s strong performances would not be enough to defeat the pair of Zalameda and Sung. The Jeffs pair that defeated Smith and Robbins was able to shut out Softness and James 8-0. Softness dropped her singles against Zalameda 6-1, 6-2. James was also unable to win against Sung, double-bageling in a 6-0, 6-0 shutout.
Nonetheless, Fried expressed great satisfaction about the pair’s performance.
“Honestly, we’re very pleased with that result,” Fried said. “Any time that we come through the draw as an unseeded team and win important matches, it is good for the depth [of the team]. It was impressive; we were very pleased with the way both of them played individually and as a doubles team. And we’re both pleased with the strides they are making.”
This is the last game the team will play this season. NCAA forbids coaches to train with the players during the off-season. However, it is expected that the team will practice individually during their break. The next team training will be in the spring, when the Cards will travel to Florida.
“We worked really hard,” Milo said. “We definitely got a lot better, but to compete at a higher level there is still a lot of work that we need to do, and the teams are going to continue to work harder during the off-season.”