c/o Sam Robinson

c/o Sam Robinson

The last four years of women’s tennis in the NESCAC have been dominated by the Red and Black. They have won four straight NESCAC Championships and Little Three titles. The standard has been set, so what’s the goal for 2024? Do it again. 

The Cards saw positive signs in the fall, as even without captain Caitlyn Ferrante ’24 and Renna Mohsen-Breen ’25, their roster of two sophomores and four first-years made an early impact. Lane Durkin ’27 went 4–0 in singles during her first college competition at the UConn Invitational. Sarah Youngberg ’26 made it to the semifinals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Cup in Rome, Georgia, after playing in the finals at the regional tournament hosted on campus. Lastly, Durkin, Youngberg, and captain Leila Epstein ’26 all made it to the semifinals of New England Women’s Intercollegiate Tennis Tournament (NEWITT) to round out the fall tournaments. 

As most students departed for spring break, the team began their spring season with two dominant 9–0 victories against no. 6 ranked Amherst and no. 30 ranked Hamilton. The doubles pair of Epstein and Jackie Soloveychik ’27 won both of their doubles matches beating Amherst 8–3 and Hamilton 8–1. 

Epstein shared insight as to what has led to the continued success of her and Soloveychik in their doubles partnership.

“I love Jackie,” Epstein said. “We’re best friends on and off the court. And we know how to pull each other out of ruts. We just try to have fun out there. She’ll crack jokes if I’m not feeling it and I’ll crack jokes if she’s not feeling it. I think we know each other really well tennis-wise and as people, and that really helps with playing well and having fun.”

The Cardinals then traveled down to San Antonio, Texas for their spring break trip that featured four games in five days. The Red and Black made quick work of their first two matches, defeating Case Western Reserve University 7–2, and then sweeping no. 22 nationally ranked Swarthmore College. Soloveychik achieved the most impressive feat in tennis during the Swarthmore match, bageling her opponent in both sets.

After the first two matches, the Cards got a day off before going to Georgetown, Texas to face no. 29 ranked Southwestern University. After losing the first set, Alexandra Burnett ’27 pulled off a dramatic comeback, winning the second and ultimately taking the tiebreaker 11–9 to give the Cardinals the sweep. 

It was another sweep for the Cardinals the next day as they destroyed no. 16 ranked Trinity University (Texas). It capped off a 4–0 spring break trip in which they won 34 of their 36 matches. 

Before gearing up for NESCAC play, the Cardinals returned to Middletown where they defeated Brandeis University 8–1, with all their wins coming in straight sets. They then had eight days off before facing Trinity, who they beat 9–0, putting them at 8–0 overall and 69–3 in individual matches.

The Cardinals then faced their toughest test of the year to that point in no. 13 ranked Tufts. The Jumbos took three points against the Cardinals, marking the most Wesleyan has conceded in a match this year. However, the Cardinals still prevailed with a 6–3 victory, featuring a standout performance by Mohsen-Breen, who secured a commanding 6–1, 6–0 win.

After defeating Tufts in a hard-fought battle, the Red and Black continued their dominant ways, sweeping Bates the next day. As that weekend wrapped up, the Cards had their sights set on the next two matches, which featured crucial faceoffs against strong rivals.

On Saturday, April 13, they took on no. 6 ranked Williams, their closest competitor from a national ranking scale, in a match for the Little Three title. While the Cards understood the extra emphasis on a Little Three match, they did not let that change their preparation for the big weekend.

“We talk a lot about not labeling certain matches as big matches,” Ferrante said. “We’re going to show up the same way for a NESCAC match and a non-NESCAC match, and bring the same energy and enjoyment to it. I feel like that’s a huge part of our success.”

The Cards brought this energy against the Ephs, sweeping the doubles matches and jumping out to a 3–0 lead. Then, wins by Epstein, Soloveychik, Durkin, and Mohsen-Breen wrapped up a 7–2 victory for the Red and Black, giving them their fifth-straight Little Three title. 

“The atmosphere was electric,” Epstein said. “I said to Jackie halfway through the doubles match, ‘I feel like we’re playing Wimbledon right now.’ The entire men’s hockey team came out. Everyone had a bunch of friends and family there, and that kind of atmosphere just brings the best tennis out of you.”

They didn’t have much time to celebrate though, as no. 12 ranked Middlebury was on tap for the next day. Not only did Middlebury fall to Wesleyan last year in the NESCAC championships, they have been on the losing end of three of Wesleyan’s four straight NESCAC titles. It’s safe to say that Middlebury was hungry for revenge, but the Red and Black were not fazed, sticking to their plan and executing it well.

While the Cards have had the Panthers’ number the last couple of years, the players recognize that this success against NESCAC teams hasn’t always been the case, and they let that fuel them.

“If you look at our full history against these other schools, for almost all of them we have a losing record,” Durkin said. “So our coach is always telling us, ‘We have to fight like we’re underdogs because it hasn’t always been this way.’”

The Red and Black carried this mindset into the Middlebury match and, like the day before, they swept the doubles matches. However, the singles matches proved to be more of a test, which was expected by veterans on the team.

“You wouldn’t be able to tell, but it was a war out there,” Ferrante said. “We went to four third sets, so it really could have gone either way. But I think we were the tougher team, so we came out on top.”

Despite those close singles matches, the Cards picked up four wins to secure a second straight 7–2 victory. The Middlebury win sits the Red and Black at 12–0 overall (7–0 NESCAC), good for no. 3 in all of Division III. 

One of the constants to the Cards’ success throughout the season has been their effective doubles play. As a team, they have only lost one doubles match throughout the season in NESCAC matches. Multiple players emphasized how much time the team spends on doubles, and how that translates to match play.

“In practice, we spend a lot of time working on doubles because it’s so important in Division III scoring,” Durkin said. “To be able to go up 3–0 after doubles play is a huge advantage. So, our coach stresses it a lot, and we’re excited when we are practicing it.” 

The Cardinals continue their season this weekend as they travel to Maine to face no. 20 ranked Bowdoin and no. 32 ranked Colby before closing out the regular season on Sunday, April 28 against Conn. College. They then have NESCACs from Friday, May 3 to Sunday, May 5 before NCAAs, which begin on Friday, May 10. 

While the team knows what’s ahead of them, the Cards are staying the course and sticking to their game plan that has given them success all year. 

“We’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing and trying to enjoy it as we do, because that’s the whole point,” Soloveychik said. “And [when the playoffs come], we’ll cross that bridge together. It’s been a privilege being around such great people who care about me and care about each other. And I care about them so much, too. It’s just been really fun, one of the best experiences I’ve had.”

Sam Weitzman-Kurker can be reached at sweitzmankur@wesleyan.edu.
Max Forstein can be reached at mforstein@wesleyan.edu.