Women’s tennis falls to Columbia, beats Cornell on road

by Chanelle Qi | 4/7/15 6:01pm

After riding an 11-match win streak to an all-time program-high ranking of No. 18 earlier in the season, the women’s tennis team faltered over the spring interim and watched its ranking dip to No. 37 following three consecutive losses.

Looking to recover some of the momentum that brought them a streak of wins, the women opened Ivy League play this past weekend with a trip to New York, where they saw mixed results.

The team suffered a 6-1 loss against No. 46 Columbia University — which sits in second place among the Ivies — in their first conference match, but salvaged the weekend with a hard-fought 4-3 victory against Cornell University the following day, busting Cornell’s seven-game win streak that dated back to February.

In a short conference season in which every match has large implications for the league title, the Big Green’s win over Cornell keeps the women in the running for the Ivy League title, as Cornell opened its Ivy League play with a win over Columbia.

On Friday, the women faced off against Columbia (10-6, 2-1). The team had previously defeated Columbia 4-0 in the finals of the ECAC Division I Indoor Championships in February, but the women found trouble bouncing back from two doubles losses and playing on their opponent’s home turf on Saturday.

“Columbia was playing at home, and they knew the playing conditions better than we did,” Kristina Mathis ’18 said. “I think the close singles matches really showed how momentum can change in tennis.”

The Big Green struggled in doubles and lost the No. 2 and No. 3 matches with respective scores of 8-1 and 8-4 to drop the doubles point.

The team regained its composure after falling to an early disadvantage and challenged Columbia in an attempt to claim points in the single competitions.

Although the Big Green walked away with only one win in singles, five of the six singles matches went to deciding third sets. After dropping the first set 6-4, co-captain Katherine Yau ’16 fought back to win her second set 6-3 at No. 2, but Columbia sophomore Tina Jiang powered through the second half of the third set to close the match with a final score of 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“It comes down to the little things and maintaining momentum,” Yau said. “It was good to play such a physical match going into Ivies, and it reminded me that every point matters in competitive Ivy League matches.”

At No. 3, Mathis also battled her way back into her match after losing the first set 6-2, dominating the second set 6-1. The momentum of the match, however, swung against Mathis’ favor, and she fell in the third, 6-0.

“My opponent did a good job getting me off the court and staying aggressive,” Mathis said. “She also had a good first serve percentage, which really threw me off.”

The team’s lone victory came from Taylor Ng ’17, ranked 79th in the nation, at the No. 1 spot. Ng, who has won 18 of the 19 matches she has played as the top player for the Big Green, remained the symbol of consistency for the team and weathered a second set loss to win her match 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. It was only Ng’s second match of the season at No. 1 that required a deciding third set.

“Our match against Columbia focused us against Cornell,” Jacqueline Crawford ’17 said. “[Our] team began to really take any possible opportunities to finish matches, which was a big improvement from Columbia.”

After falling to Columbia, the Big Green (14-4, 1-1) traveled to Ithaca, New York, to compete against Cornell (8-6, 2-1) in its second conference match on Saturday.

The Big Green got off to a slow start in doubles and dropped the point with an 8-3 loss at No. 1 and an 8-1 loss at No. 2. Once again, the Big Green faced a 1-0 deficit headed into singles.

Ng and Yau set the tone for the women during singles, as they both won quickly at the No. 1 and No. 2 positions with identical score lines of 6-3, 6-2.

No. 4 Crawford also came off the court with a straight-set victory, winning her match 6-2, 6-1. The team fell in straight sets at the No. 3 and No. 5 spots, however, evening the overall score at 3-3.

The deciding point came down to the No. 6 singles match, where Julia Schroeder ’18 found herself locked in a battle with Cornell freshman Lizzie Stewart.

After finishing with a bagel in the first set, Schroeder showcased the ever-important short-term memory of a tennis player, digging deep to win the second set in a tiebreaker. Schroeder dominated the third set 6-1, clinching the must-win match for the Big Green.

Women’s tennis resumes conference competition next weekend at home, hosting Princeton University — which currently sits atop the Ivy League — and Brown University — tied with Dartmouth at fourth among Ivies — on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.