Ng leads women’s tennis to victory at Harvard, team finishes second in Ivy League

by Henry Arndt and Joe Clyne | 4/26/15 6:01pm

In the women’s tennis team’s final game of the regular season, the No. 31 Big Green (18-5, 5-2 Ivy) beat Harvard University (7-12, 0-7 Ivy), who occupies last place in the Ivy League 5-2, at the Murr Tennis Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dartmouth ended the year in second place among the Ivies, behind only Princeton University (12-8, 6-1 Ivy). With the win, the women will likely secure a spot in the NCAA Women’s Tennis National Championships, which begins May 14.

Standout performers for the Big Green included Taylor Ng ’17 and Kristina Mathis ’18. Ng and Mathis teamed up to win their doubles match, and each took home a point in the singles section as well.

With her singles win, Ng — the No. 99 singles player in the country — remained undefeated in individual competition in this year’s Ivy League play.

“I think my season was largely a product of the team culture that we had this year,” Ng said. “The fact that I can go into practice every day knowing that I will be pushed by my coaches and teammates is what makes you physically and mentally stronger. That’s probably what made one of the biggest differences.”

Katherine Yau ’16 credited Ng’s growth as a player for some of the Big Green’s success this year.

“It’s really cool to see how much [Ng] has improved since her freshman year and how much she has grown both physically and mentally on the courts,” Yau said. “It’s really inspiring to watch how she goes about every match. She’s just very mentally strong, kind of tunes out all negativity.”

The Big Green jumped out to a fast start in the doubles portion of competition as Ng and Mathis won their No. 1 match-up 8-3. Yau and Akiko Okuda ’15 then secured the doubles point for the women by taking down Harvard’s Amy He and Ellen Jang-Milsten 8-4. Yau and Okuda jumped out to a 7-0 lead before dropping a few games to He and Jang-Milsten. Ultimately, the Dartmouth duo managed to hold on, despite Yau saying she felt less than her best during the match.

“We lost a few games, and our coach was just trying to tell us to have more energy, which was hard when [Yau] was not feeling her best because she’s usually the one who has a lot of energy,” Okuda said. “It was definitely a challenge for me to try and build that energy for the team.”

Mathis and Ng followed up their success in doubles by each notching victories on the single side. Mathis took a win at the No. 3 spot by taking down Harvard’s June Lee 7-6, 6-2. Ng took down Monica Lin 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. Ng managed to take advantage of Lin’s mistakes to put the Big Green up 3-0 over the Crimson and leave the squad just a point from victory.

“I’ve played [Lin] once before and it was kind of a similar thing,” Ng said. “She’s a really good player, she sometimes has periods where she’s really on and periods where she makes a lot of unforced errors. I came out really fast and more focused in the first set and was able to take advantage of some her inconsistencies, especially on her forehand.”

Though the Big Green held a dominating lead, the clinching point would not come easily. In the second position, Yau was still feeling unwell. If she proved unable to play in the match at all, the team’s other players would all have to shift up a position and play a higher ranked player, leaving the Big Green at a disadvantage. Yau battled through her discomfort to play in the match, though she withdrew after falling behind 7-5, 1-0.

“It was really great that [Yau] stayed tough and played some of her match so that it would be easier on the rest of her teammates who were playing below her so we didn’t all have to play a position up,” Okuda said. “I think seeing how close the match was it could have made a difference. All of our matches we’re always thinking that every match matters, but since we knew [Yau] was not doing so well it made us even more determined to win our own matches.”

The Crimson continued to claw its way back into the match by taking another point at the No. 6 position to set the overall score at 3-2 in favor of the Big Green. Okuda, playing in the number six spot on senior day, fell to Harvard’s He in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3.

If the Crimson could take the singles point at both the number four and five positions, which were in decisive third sets, Harvard would earn its first Ivy win of the season and knock Dartmouth down into a three-way tie for second in the conference.

Harvard’s dreams did not come to fruition, however, as the Big Green’s Julia Schroeder ’18 clinched a win by taking down Amanda Lin, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

“Schroeder has been clinching so many of our Ivy League matches. She’s so tough, very determined and very vocal on the court. It’s very entertaining to watch,” Okuda said. “It’s really cool that even in my senior year I’m still inspired by my younger teammates.”

After Schroeder’s match ended, the women added another point to their victory margin thanks to Jacqueline Crawford ’17 winning her match in the four position, 6-4, 6-2, 2-2 (7-1). With the final singles point, Dartmouth defeated Harvard by a score of 5-2 overall.

“It was my senior day and it was my last match. I didn’t win my match but that’s what’s great about team tennis,” Okuda said. “Even when you didn’t have a great day, its still a great feeling that your team can do so well and have such a good win.”

Now the team is waiting for April 28 to see if it qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Ranked No. 31 in the nation entering this weekend’s play, it seems likely that the team will earn an at-large bid to the championships.

Ng will also likely receive the Ivy League’s automatic entry to the individual national championships, thanks to her remarkable season.

“[Dallis] mentioned to us yesterday how we had set all these goals for ourselves in the beginning of winter term. We set them really high,” Okuda said. “We didn’t even imagine ourselves to be up that high in the rankings, and we were able to accomplish those. We didn’t win Ivies, but we put ourselves in a good position to accomplish our goal of going to NCAAs. It’s really cool to end on this high note.”