With temperatures finally rising to a comfortable mid to high 60s over the past week, the women’s tennis team was finally able to vacate Bacon Field House and get back to playing outdoors on the John Wood Memorial Tennis Courts. Before hosting Bates for their first outdoor home match of the season on Tuesday, April 19, the Cardinals logged a lot of bus miles traveling first to Hamilton on Saturday and then to Amherst on Sunday.
“It’s always tough going away to Hamilton, coming back, and then leaving early the next morning to play at Amherst,” said captain Maddie James ’16. “But I think everyone handled it well, and we kept our energy up.”
Coming off a tough 5-1 loss to then-number-one nationally ranked Williams the week before, the Cardinals looked to turn things around and record their first NESCAC win of the season against Hamilton, a team they had beaten in their previous 10 encounters. The Cardinals set the tone early as they swept the doubles matches, posting convincing wins at number one, two, and three, by scores of 8-2, 8-1, and 8-0, respectively.
The Cardinals sustained their dominant performance into the singles matches. Coming off her first collegiate singles loss, number one Eudice Chong ’18 looked to get back in the win column. After a close first set victory won in the tiebreaker 7-6 (5), Chong was relentless in the second and did not drop a game, winning the set, 6-0, and the match. In anticipation of their match against fifth ranked Amherst the following day, the Cardinals rested Victoria Yu ’19 in singles after she paired with Dasha Dubinsky ’18 at second doubles. In Yu’s place at number two singles, Helen Klass-Warch ’18 earned a convincing 6-0, 6-3 victory.
The Cards would go on to add two more wins from Aashli Budhiraja ’18, 6-4, 6-4, and Nicole McCann ’18, 6-4, 6-2. Dubinsky fell in close battle, 2-6, 7-6, 16-14. Despite the loss, the Redbirds recorded their first NESCAC victory of the season by a final of 7-2.
While there was time to celebrate the win on the four-hour bus ride back to campus, it was a quick turnaround as the team headed up to Amherst the next morning to take on number five team. The first doubles pairing of Chong and Budhiraja remained undefeated on the season with a thrilling 8-6 victory. However, the Cards dropped the the second and third doubles matches and found themselves in a familiar spot. For the fourth time this season, the Cardinals headed into singles play trailing their opponent 2-1.
Chong quickly drew the match even for the Cardinals with a 6-2, 6-1 victory at number one. Amherst regained the lead as they claimed a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Klass-Warch at number three. With four matches still being contested and the Cardinals claiming first set victories at numbers two and four, the potential of an upset was brewing. The Cardinals’ decision to rest Yu in the Hamilton match proved to be a good strategy, as she bounced back with a 6-2 third set win at two singles and won the match despite dropping the second set. After splitting the first two sets at number four, Budhiraja headed to a decisive third. Despite battling hard, she would go on to lose the final set, 6-2, and the Purple and White had already claimed victories at five and six. This ended the match at a closely fought 6-3 victory over the Cardinals, marking the 34th consecutive win for Amherst over Wesleyan.
“I think we played really well, and we managed the quick turnaround very well,” James said. “Everyone fought really hard, and there were a lot of close three-set matches, so I feel like it could have gone either way.”
After a day of rest on Monday, the Cardinals were back at it on Tuesday, playing host to the Bates Bobcats on senior day for James, the lone senior on the squad. Paired with McCann at three doubles, James finished her career at Wesleyan with an 8-5 victory. Despite windy conditions, the Redbirds took care of business and recorded their first shutout of the season, beating the Bobcats 9-0. The first five singles positions for the Cardinals succeeded in not dropping a set, while Ella Lindholm-Uzzi ’17 snuck out a three-set victory, winning the tiebreaker 10-8.
“It was a great way to end my Wesleyan tennis career, with a win on our home courts,” James said. “Although it’s not over yet, it was a great win, and playing with Nicole was just so much fun. It means a lot. I’m sad to leave the team, but it’s cool to see how far we’ve come.”
As James mentioned, the season still has a way to go with two big matches this weekend. On Saturday, April 23, the Cards travel up to Maine to take on Colby. Wes will look to pick up its sixth straight win over the Mules. The Cards return to Middletown on Sunday, April 24, when they host 15th-ranked Tufts at 1 p.m. for their final home match of the season. Last season, Wesleyan beat the Jumbos for the first time in nearly 15 years by a score of 5-4, a good sign for the match on Sunday.
“It’s going to be tough going away up to Maine, but I think we will be able to pull through,” James said. “Tufts is always a really big match for us, so I think everyone is really fired up for that.”