Last spring, an impressive 11-4 dual match record and NESCAC tournament appearance boded good things to come for a women’s tennis team that had not reached postseason play since 2008. This fall, the addition of freshman standout Victoria Yu to a stacked lineup that includes reigning NCAA DIII singles champion Eudice Chong ’18 puts the squad in legitimate contention for an NCAA tournament bid come May, and adds a fresh weapon to Head Coach Mike Fried’s already brimming arsenal of talent.
Despite only having played together for two months, the brilliance that Chong and Yu have displayed at the top of the Cards’ lineup already holds traces of the dominance that storied pairs like Jordan and Pippen or Montana and Rice commanded in their respective sports. Chong and Yu lost just one doubles match all season, cruising to an easy ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) Women’s Regional title earlier this month without dropping more than five games in any match. The duo also tore through their respective singles brackets en route to their first tournament final as adversaries, where Chong defeated Yu narrowly 6-2, 6-2.
By virtue of their dominant performance at regionals, Chong and Yu traveled to the 2015 ITA Small College Nationals in Sumter, South Carolina this past weekend, where the pair tested their mettle against the nation’s top DIII doubles teams. Chong also competed in the singles draw after capturing the singles title at regionals. In doubles, Chong and Yu’s precise, aggressive play proved to be more than the rest of the country could handle. The pair breezed to the finals of the doubles draw without dropping a set, defeating Claremont Mudd-Scripps and Washington University’s top teams in the process. The win against Kuosman and Ward of Claremont Mudd-Scripps was particularly sweet for Chong, who was ousted from the NCAA tournament’s doubles draw by the pair last May.
“Beating Claremont’s team felt really good, especially after NCAAs,” Chong said. “It’s good to get closure after a tough loss like that.”
In the finals of the doubles draw, Chong and Yu faced Harding and Su of Emory University, a duo that reached the team finals of the 2015 NCAA tournament. Despite this impressive resume, Chong and Yu hardly batted an eyelash and made, in Yu’s words, “quick work” of last year’s runner-ups. The final score read a whopping 6-1, 6-0 in favor of the Cardinals.
“I think our game styles compliment one another because we’re both very aggressive players and like to finish points at the net,” Chong said of her and Yu’s doubles strategy. “That separates us from a lot of other doubles teams who like to stay on the baseline and lob.”
Head Coach Mike Fried supported Chong’s comments in an email to The Argus.
“Eudice and Victoria are both natural doubles players,” he wrote. “They both play aggressive and attacking doubles, and they’ve gelled very quickly, with each setting the other up to finish points up at net.”
While competing on such a big stage might have proved daunting for other first-year players, Yu maintains that she played her best tennis of the tournament in the final against Emory.
“It’s fun playing for a team and representing your school at such a big tournament,” she claimed. “I feel more motivation than pressure knowing I’m representing my teammates and Wes.”
The pair’s dominance in doubles carried over to Chong’s singles play, where she blanked Megan Humphreys of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and downed Taylor Cosme of Emory to reach her second final of the tournament. The final match against Ashnaa Rao of Johns Hopkins University proved to be just as one-sided as the doubles championship the previous day, with Chong dispatching her opponent 6-1, 6-1.
“I was especially happy with how I played in the final,” Chong said. “My opponent’s playing style was very similar to mine in that we both hit hard and flat, so I had to vary my game a little to come out on top.”
Not satisfied with capturing back-to-back titles in singles and doubles, Chong also competed in the DII ITA National bracket the following day, where she faced some of the nation’s best collegiate players. Though Chong was defeated relatively early on in the draw, Coach Fried maintains that the experience was invaluable.
“It was great to have the opportunity to play not only against the best DIII competition in the country, but also the DII winners,” he said in an email. “The DII winners have considerable WTA professional tournament experience, and it was great to see what they’re doing in terms of constructing points and competing. The opportunity further highlights the areas on which we need to focus in order to get even better.”
Despite their substantial individual success, Chong and Yu’s focus remains helping the team secure an NCAA bid during spring season.
“Our goal is to finish the season ranked among the top eight teams in the country and travel to NCAAs as a team,” said Chong, with Yu nodding in agreement beside her. “We have a long road ahead of us, but I think as a team we have the talent and work ethic to get there.”
Coach Fried was equally optimistic about the team’s chances come springtime.
“Our hope is that the whole team can have an extremely productive off-season,” he said in his email. “We also hope that Eudice and Victoria can continue their laudable individual performances while leading the team to a fun, very successful spring season.”