On Saturday, April 30, the women’s tennis team closed out the regular season with a 7-2 victory over Brandeis University. The win came just two days after the Cardinals ended their NESCAC play with a decisive 8-1 victory over Conn College. Including wrapping up the final two matches with convincing wins, the Cardinals finished the season on a 6-0 run. The Birds concluded the regular season with a 10-4 overall record and were 6-4 in NESCAC play.
Keeping with their early season success dating back to the California spring break trip, the Cardinals maintained their strong performance throughout the season and earned themselves a number eight national ranking in DIII. This is the highest ranking ever achieved by the program. The Redbirds look to build on the season’s success and sustain their momentum into the playoffs, where they will hope to make a deep run in the NESCAC and NCAA DIII Tournaments.
“We’re clearly pleased to finish the regular season on a good run, and we’re heading into the postseason with our confidence at a high level,” said head coach Mike Fried.
Maintaining their high confidence level is a must, as the Cardinals will face a stiff set of challenges over the coming weeks. In addition to taking finals and finishing their academic obligations, the Cardinals will compete against some of the best DIII tennis teams from around the country.
It’s all underway for the Cardinals on Friday, May 5 at Bates, the host for this year’s NESCAC Tournament. While the Cardinals are still unsure of where they will be seeded or whom they will face in their first round matchup of the six-team draw, they will certainly play a top-20 team and most likely another top-10 ranked opponent.
Including Wesleyan, there are currently five NESCAC teams ranked within the top 10, and that number could increase to six by Thursday, the eve of the NESCAC Tournament, when the latest rankings will be released. It is fair to say that this will be one of, if not the most, competitive women’s tennis tournament in conference history.
“When the latest rankings come out on Thursday, just before the NESCAC tournament begins on Friday, I’m pretty sure that all six teams will be ranked in the top 10 in the country,” Fried said. “I’m pretty sure that’s unprecedented, and certain that it makes for an awfully competitive weekend. Regardless of who we play, we’ll have a great match and great opportunity every time we step on the court up there.”
After a grueling stretch in which the Cardinals played eight matches in 15 days to conclude the season, Fried gave the women both Sunday and Monday off to regroup. The Cards will be back on the court Tuesday and Wednesday for a couple of focused practices before heading up to Lewiston, ME on Thursday night.
If the Cardinals are going to record their first NESCAC Championship win and have a chance at bringing home their first conference title, they will need to upset the likes of Williams, Middlebury, Bowdoin, and Amherst. While the Cards were 0-4 against these teams in the regular season, the postseason atmosphere should work in favor of the energized Redbirds.
Although the Cardinals will most likely send out one of the youngest lineups, consisting of five sophomores and one first-year, at the tournament this weekend, they should not to be underestimated. At the helm, the Cardinals are led by reigning NCAA DIII singles Champion Eudice Chong ’18, followed by Victoria Yu ’19, who plays with the maturity of a sophomore or junior rather than a first-year. Helen Klass-Warch ’18, Nicole McCann ’18, Aashli Budhiraja ’18, and Dasha Dubinsky ’18 round out the starters, and all four have postseason experience.
Not only would a couple of upsets at NESCACs this weekend show just how far the team has progressed over the past few years from being unranked to growing into a top-10 program, but a nice performance at the tournament could also help the Cardinals secure a good seeding for the NCAA Tournament, which begins the following weekend on Friday, May 13.
“The NCAA selections and draw come out on Monday, May 9,” Fried said. “It’s too early to make any guesses about what it’ll look like, but we’re really just focusing on what’s in front of us right now, which is a few great practices and one point at a time.”