On March 8, the women’s tennis team started its spring season with a dominant 9-0 victory over NESCAC rival Hamilton. Besides the overall record, the most impressive statistic from the meeting was the fact that the Cardinals lost only one set the entire day.
Moreover, the team was in complete control during all three doubles matches, winning each of them by significant margins (the closest was an 8-4 victory). Although the women’s team has traditionally had the upper hand against the Continentals, this year’s lopsided victory is a testament to the progress this squad has made from last year.
“[The season] definitely started out the way we wanted it to,” said Co-Captain Nicki Softness ’14. “Hamilton has traditionally been a win for us, but it was exciting to have it be so absolutely defining.”
Although most of the matches of the day were won by massive margins, there were a few close games that held the crowd’s breath, specifically the victory of captain Grace Smith’14, who took the tie-breaking set with an exciting 11-9 victory.
The spring season opener also was an opportunity for the team’s new freshmen to make a statement. Olivia Koh ’17 won a decisive 6-2, 6-1 singles match, while also winning her doubles match, 8-1, alongside Smith. Her breakout wins resulted in her winning NESCAC Player of the Week. Cam Arkin ’17 also started her spring season with a win, albeit a thin margin, 7-5, 7-5. Coach Michael Fried is confident in this year’s freshmen class and has high expectations both on and off the court.
“[This year’s freshmen] are a huge part of the camaraderie that brings our team together,” Fried said.
After starting the spring season at home, the team made its annual week-long trip down to Orlando, Florida, where it faced off against a variety of non-conference opponents at the NEWITT tournament, finishing with a 2-3 record. Contrary to what the record suggests, the results were a positive sign for Cardinal tennis this spring, as the team faced both Division I and Division II squads from around the country.
The tournament started with a difficult match against Wingate University, a Division II team ranked 29th in the country. Koh was able to end the day with a win in her first match at the Florida event with a 6-0, 7-5 victory. However, the Cardinals were only able to find one more win as the score at the end of the day was 2-7. The next day, Wednesday, the team’s fortunes reversed, as it defeated Franklin & Marshall 7-2. The day was highlighted by Softness’ down-to-the-wire victory, as she won 6-4, 5-7, (10-8).
“Tiebreaks are stressful,” Softness said on the final set. “I give the credit to my teammates and coaches that were standing on my court in total support.”
Thursday, the team had a reunion with a strong Division I Creighton squad. Although the team fell 6-1, it represented an improvement from last year’s 7-0 pummeling. Koh had her first loss of the spring, a tight 5-7, 4-6 match. Jessica Seidman ’16 was the lone victor as her opponent retired midway through the second set; the final score was 6-2, 2-0, with Seidman winning.
The following day had Wesleyan facing a Division III opponent, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who was ranked 15th in the Northeast. Wesleyan, ranked 17th, pulled out another dominant victory, winning 9-0. Again, it was Softness with the tight victory at the end, winning her match in the tie-breaker set 6-4, 4-6, 10-7. The Cardinals would end their trip on a 2-7 loss to Palm Beach Atlantic with Koh once again being one of the two victories in a Cardinal defeat.
Moving forward, the tennis team looks to capitalize on the momentum from their two dominant performances against Hamilton and RPI. Fried has put a lot of confidence in his two senior captains this year, Softness and Smith, and will rely on them to help guide the team going forward.
“[Nicki and Grace] have done a great job of leading the team this year,” Fried said. “They’ve been very instrumental in helping us establish a team culture of cohesiveness, support, and hard work.”
Something is certainly different this year in Wesleyan’s squad, as its members look focused and motivated to improve on last year’s 4-5 record.
“I think our team this year is much more unified in our commitment to each other and the team,” Fried said. “[We are committed] to doing the hard work that it’s going to take to make attaining our goals realistic.”
The women’s tennis team takes on Conn College on Saturday. The match will be in New London, on the Camels’ courts.