c/o Sterling Rodas

c/o Sterling Rodas

The women’s tennis team has rounded off an impressive spring season, closing out the regular season with a 14-1 overall record and a 9-1 conference record. Along the way, the Red and Black also sealed the team’s fourth straight Little Three title and set themselves up to enter the 2023 NESCAC Championship as the second seed. 

The Cards opened the spring semester by continuing their regular season dominance with a win over No. 13 Williams. The next day, the Red and Black took down Conn. College in a 9–0 victory. Head coach Michael Fried spoke about the team’s mindest as they entered the spring season and kicked off NESCAC play before the spring break. 

“We came into the spring excitedly, and it was a bit unique for us this year playing some NESCAC matches prior to spring break, which is not the typical kind of schedule,” Fried said. “But the ability to go up to Williams and come out with a win in that match was a good first step, obviously, for setting the right tone for the season, and allowed us to kind of work out some first-match kinks for sure.”

The team then traveled to Florida for an undefeated spring break trip, defeating Southwestern University, Quinnipiac University, Kenyon College, and Denison University. Leila Epstein ’26 said that the spring trip was a high point of her first season with the team. 

“The highlight of my season was probably our spring break trip to Florida,” Epstein wrote in an email to The Argus. “It allowed us to get some matches under our belt, while also building our team comradery.” 

The team’s dominance in Florida gave the Cardinals momentum as they headed back up north to NESCAC play. The Cardinals returned from spring break to kick off the season against No. 19 Brandeis, where the team produced a dominant 9–0 win against a Top 20 opponent on the road for the first time in program history. 

“We had a great trip to Florida, and it was just successful on a whole lot of levels both on and off the court,” Fried said. “We’ve been lucky enough to kind of carry some great energy and momentum straight into and then through the NESCAC regular season,” Fried said.

Following this strong showing, however, the Cardinals suffered their only loss this season against No. 6 Middlebury on Sunday, March 26. In a fight that ended the Cardinals’ 39-match regular-season win streak, the Panthers closed out a tight battle that came down to a third set tiebreak where Middlebury sealed a 5–4 win over the Cards. 

The Cardinals came back after the defeat with a resounding 9–0 victory over No. 17 Bowdoin at home on Saturday, April 1, followed by an 8–1 win over No. 26 Colby the next day. The team kept up the strong momentum with two more victories the next weekend against Bates and Amherst. 

The win against No. 7 Amherst marked a high point of the season, as it allowed the Cards to seal the team’s fourth straight Little Three Championship at home on Sunday, April 26 with the 6–3 victory. 

“The Little Three is always really strong for tennis, so winning the title is a big accomplishment for us and I think it gives us a lot of confidence going into our post season,” Epstein wrote.

c/o Sterling Rodas

c/o Sterling Rodas

Sasha Gaeth ’23 also highlighted how the Little Three championship is a special opportunity for Wesleyan athletes to compete. 

“The tradition of the Little Three rivalry is so unique to Wesleyan and to our conference and it provides us with an opportunity to represent our school in the best way we can!” Gaeth wrote.  “And for the past 4 instances, we’ve done just that!”

In the team’s final regular season matchup, the Cardinals took down No. 10 Tufts with an 8–1 win on the road on Saturday, April 22. This victory meant the Cardinals closed out their regular season with a 14–1 overall record and a 9–1 record in NESCAC matches, bringing another remarkable regular season to an end.

Gaeth attributed the team’s incredible success this year on the court to the unity between the players and the support they have for one another. 

“Our team’s biggest asset and biggest leg up on all the other teams we play is our tight knit relationship with one another,” Gaeth wrote. “We play such strong teams with incredible tennis players, but our team is able to pull through and come out on top because of the unwavering support we’ve always got for each other. That feeling is so rare, and I just feel so fortunate to be a part of this special team.”

As the regular season came to an end, Gaeth reflected on the end of her college tennis career and what this final season means for the senior class.

“I felt very melancholy going into my last season with the team,” Gaeth wrote. “It was a surreal feeling as well. These past few years of college tennis have flown by, largely because COVID hit us right in the middle and us seniors didn’t get the opportunity to play as many seasons as we’d hoped when we were recruited. This really just makes us seniors savor this last season all the more.”

Epstein spoke about how she has gotten to know her teammates throughout her first year on the team and felt continually supported by them. 

“I’m happy with how my first season at Wesleyan has gone so far, and I am excited for the postseason,” Epstein said. “Transitioning from junior tennis, which is highly individual, to playing for a team has been an amazing experience. When we step out on the court on match days, we try to bring our best energy and support for each other. I think we are all playing for something bigger than ourselves, and our team chemistry has been a big contributor to our success so far this season.” 

All throughout the season, the team focused on taking it one match at a time and remaining consistently strong during the spring. 

“It’s all such a whirlwind at this point, but I think that we’re doing our best to kind of be able to take time and celebrate each result that we’re getting, and to take it one match at a time,” Fried said. “But I think at the same time, it’s definitely a good catalyst to build confidence and know we can play with and come out on top against several of the backs in the country week after week.” 

The Red and Black will kick off their NESCAC Championship bid as they take on No. 7 Hamilton on Friday, April 28 at Williams. After winning their third straight NESCAC title in 2022 with a 5–4 win over Middlebury at home, the No. 2 seeded Cardinals will be looking to defend their championship. Gaeth highlighted the team’s mood as they head to Williamstown, MA. 

“The team is very excited heading into the NESCAC Championships,” Gaeth wrote. “We were so fortunate to host it last year and some moments from last year’s championships will be moments I’ll never forget. Goals headed into the tournament this year is just to show our opponents what a strong team we are and to create some memorable moments.” 

With the Panthers the top seed in this year’s tournament, the Cardinals will be fighting to reverse the results of their match against Middlebury this season and earn their fourth straight NESCAC Championship. Just like during the regular season, the Red and Black will be focusing on playing their best each moment they spend on court and play without placing any pressure on themselves.

c/o Sterling Rodas

c/o Sterling Rodas

“We work very hard to eliminate expectations and we clearly recognize that in the conference and in the country, there are lots of teams that are extremely good, [and] we do our very best to kind of minimize expectations and focus on what we want to do,” Fried said. “That’s hard to do, that’s something we work on throughout the year, to not self-impose pressure. And I think in some ways too, [losing] the match against Middlebury this year [and ending the winning streak], we’re hoping it really has a huge silver lining and serves us well…. In some ways it’s liberating to not have, self-imposed or otherwise, the background noise of the pressure of that kind of streak or record and to be able to see that the world doesn’t end should we come up short in the match.” 

Epstein echoed these sentiments and emphasized that the team isn’t going into the championship fight with any particular expectations. 

“We are playing with no expectations, just excitement for the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the country,” Epstein wrote. 

As the NESCAC Championships gear up, Fried emphasized that the team will be relying on the same mindset as every other match it has played this dominant season. 

“We’re not treating it a whole lot differently than we have any other matches during the season [where] we expect to go up and play against really good teams that are capable of beating us,” Fried said. “And our whole goal has been this week on having the best preparation that we can, and our goal when we go up there will be, match by match, to compete as well as we can and try not to focus on results…to put ourselves in the best possible position each practice, and then this weekend, each match that we get to play.” 

Jem Shin can be reached at jshin01@wesleyan.edu.

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