Coming off one of its best seasons in program history, the women’s tennis team looks to build upon its success from last spring when it accomplished multiple program firsts: a national top ten ranking, a NESCAC tournament victory, and a spot in the third round of the NCAA DIII Championships. Despite all of their accolades last season, the Cardinals are still hungry for more, especially given they fell just one victory shy of making it to the Round of 16 at the NCAA Tournament—a goal they hope to achieve and even surpass this year.
“Our team’s goal is to look towards improving our result of reaching the Sweet 16 in NCAA’s last year, especially when we came just a little short on reaching the next round and flying as a team to the official site,” said co-captain Eudice Chong ’18. “This year, we are trying to take it one step at a time and concentrate on improving ourselves one percent more each day to reach this goal.”
Even though the Cardinals entered the season ranked eighth in the country, they know that nothing is going to come easy and what determines their success on the court in the 2017 season will be a direct result of the time and effort they put in during the offseason.
“The team mentality has been amazing so far this season,” said co-captain Ella Lindholm-Uzzi ’17. “Everyone is extremely focused and working hard both on the court and in the gym. The offseason was big for us to get stronger both mentally and physically, in preparation for our matches this April. Our off-season mentality was to be stronger in mind, spirit, and body so right now our goal is to keep that up.”
There is no doubt that this off-season focus and discipline has carried over into the regular season and is paying off. Over spring break, the team traveled to California to kick off their 2017 campaign. To say the trip was a success would be an understatement. In a span of four days, the Cardinals defeated formerly 12th ranked Carnegie Mellon 6-3, trounced 11th ranked Washington University in St. Louis 7-2, and rounded out the trip with a 9-0 sweep of 29th ranked Denison.
“It was better than fairly good, it was very very good,” said head coach Mike Fried, now in his fifth season at the helm of the program. “It was much less of a training trip than diving headfirst into our season. We jumped in and played teams ranked 11, 12, and 29 in the national rankings. As they’ve done time and time again, the women on our team stepped up and competed very well. We beat some very good teams and it was a big first step for our season.”
After a week of being in the warm, comfortable weather of southern California, the Cardinals returned to a snow-covered campus, but the cold weather did not seem to affect their performance nor cool their hot streak.
“The trip to California went the best it could,” Lindholm-Uzzi said. “Undefeated against really strong teams is always a fantastic start to the season. Now we know we can compete successfully against any team in the country, and the success from the spring break trip only made us hungry for more competition.”
The Cardinals got that competition on Saturday, March 25 when they headed just south of Middletown to face Division I Quinnipiac University. Although the two programs had not faced one other since the 1997-98 season heading into the match, the Cards held the head-to-head record at 7-1. The program’s lone loss came in 1994. In a thrilling match that required everyone to be playing at midseason form, the Cards pulled off a tough feat and squeezed by the Bobcats on their home courts, 4-3. With the win, the Cardinals improved to 4-0 on the year, and look to maintain their early success as they enter the heart of their season.
“With such a successful spring break and start to our season, it is great to see our hard work really paying off,” said Chong. “Even though the season started off so well and we hold ourselves at a slightly higher standard than we did last year, we know there are still many aspects we need to be improving on in order to keep it rolling the rest of the season.”
The Cards have been making the necessary tweaks and adjustments all week as they prepare for their home opener and start of NESCAC play on Sunday, April 2 when they will host Hamilton at 11 a.m. Although the Continentals have not posed much of a threat in recent years, the host Cardinals are still taking the match very seriously, knowing every victory will get the squad one step closer to their goal of a national championship.
With four wins already under their belt, the Cards are definitely on the path leading to the Champions Tennis Club in Chattanooga, TN, the site of this year’s NCAA DIII Championships. With the talent and experience this team has, winning a national championship is a very achievable goal. Let’s cheer on our Cardinals as they look to make this goal a reality.