c/o Ava Nederlander, Photo Editor

c/o Ava Nederlander, Photo Editor

Despite the shortened, pandemic-ridden tennis season of 2021, it’s been nothing but smooth sailing for the women’s tennis team. Keeping with the momentum of their NESCAC and National Championships in 2019, the Cardinals remain undefeated (4–0) after back-to-back home victories, dropping the anchor on division foes Middlebury and Hamilton. Their division also includes Amherst and Williams, whom they soundly defeated to carry home the Little Three Title for the second time in history. In the five-match season, which is significantly shorter than the usual 20-plus match season, the Cards’ victories place them atop the West Division and in a secure spot to defend their 2019 title run in this year’s modified Championship, which consists of the top teams from the East and West divisions. The opposing East division consists of Bates, Colby, Tufts, Trinity, and Conn. College.

As per usual in our present sporting world, the NESCAC’s 2021 women’s tennis season has been greatly altered by COVID-19. Masks and social distancing are necessary for all players and coaches during matches, and the stands are sparsely dotted with masked fans. 

When asked about how these precautions have changed the season, Megan Tran ’22 remarked on the team’s mental fortitude.

“[We] learned not to think too far ahead and just take things one weekend at a time,” Tran said. 

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been shocking and startling for sports teams, so it is important for players not to expect the best conditions. Tran also explained how wearing masks has added some physical conditioning concerns, but emphasized that the team has worked through this setback. 

In a Saturday, April 17 match, the Cardinals took care of a slightly lower-ranked Middlebury team. The Cards won the match 7–2, with a 3–0 sweep in doubles play in the rematch of 2019’s NESCAC Championship, where they won 5–2. In the singles matches, both Polina Kiseleva ’21 and Katie Fleischman ’23 made quick work of their opponents, combining for two shutout sets. Adding to the singles wins, Caitlin Goldberg ’23 and Serim Jin ’23 won their matches, leading the team to victory.

The 7–2 win was a monumental stepping stone for the Red and Black, as it was their first home victory against Middlebury since 2000. However, the team is no stranger to snapping losing streaks, as they defeated Williams for the first time in 2019, breaking a losing streak of 45 matches that dated back to 1974. A similar losing streak was snapped against Amherst in 2017, which constituted the Card’s second win since 1977 (the other win came in 1980). The turnaround of the women’s team has been spectacular, and their continued success through the 2021 season could be a peek into possible Wesleyan dominance over the foreseeable future.

On Sunday, April 18, a day after their win over Middlebury, the Cardinals shut out a struggling and winless Hamilton squad in 9–0 fashion, with multiple shutout sets from Tran, first-year Kriti Williams ’24, and Jin, who blew out her rival for two consecutive 6–0 sets. The win topped off the weekend magic and gave a tip of the hat towards the three senior players—Kiseleva, Alissa Nakamoto ’21 and Daniela Alvarez ’21—who all picked up doubles wins on their senior night. Historically, Wesleyan has been dominant over Hamilton, with their win on Sunday adding to a 15-game win streak that began in 2005. 

This blowout was characteristic of the Cardinals’ season, as they have been able to exert their prowess of NESCAC teams in the wake of all the changes brought by COVID-19. On their win over Hamilton, and their season as a whole, Tran noted the team’s consistent advantage in terms of enthusiasm, with the players taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to motivating their teammates.

“The energy difference between us and other teams is usually pretty apparent during matches, especially in terms of volume,” said Tran. 

Women’s tennis has been rolling as of late, and their enthusiasm and support for their teammates will only grow as their winning continues. With only one game left in the regular season, the Cardinals look to continue their undefeated season and 16 game winning streak, which stretches back into the mid-2019 season. By the looks of their red-hot play this past weekend, the Cards will be hard to beat. So watch out Hamilton, the Wesleyan train is coming to town, and they are on a mission to win back-to-back NESCAC titles.


Lewis Woloch can be reached at lwoloch@wesleyan.edu.

Eli Seaver can be reached at eseaver@wesleyan.edu.