Women's tennis finishes season after loss in NCAA tournament
No. 45 women’s tennis team fell to No. 17 University of Kentucky 4-2 in its first-round match at the NCAA tournament Friday morning. Initially down 2-0, the women’s team leveled the match 2-2 before losing the next two games.
Kentucky scored the initial doubles point after winning two lopsided matches. Dartmouth’s No. 1 doubles pair, Taylor Ng ’17 and Kristina Mathis ’18, fell 6-0 to Kentucky’s Aldila Sutjiadi and Mami Adachi, the nation’s sixth-ranked doubles team. Jacqueline Crawford ’17 and Lexxi Kiven ’18 also lost 6-1.
“We knew going into it that Kentucky would be a difficult team to play,” Ng said. “They came out really aggressive in doubles and were able to get ahead earlier in points.”
When the two teams met at the 2016 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Spring Kick-Off Weekend, in what would be a 4-1 Kentucky win, it was Dartmouth who had the upper hand in doubles. Then-34th-ranked Ng and Mathis defeated Sutjiadi and Adachi, then the nation’s top doubles team, by a score of 6-4.
“Getting off to a better start in doubles would have been helpful,” women’s tennis head coach Bob Dallis said.
Julia Schroeder ’18 and Racquel Lyn ’20 were leading their doubles match 5-2 when play was halted. Dallis called their performance “outstanding.”
“It was exciting for us to play Kentucky again this year,” Schroeder said. “Going into the match, we knew we had to play with confidence and belief. I was really going for my backhand and playing all-out knowing this could be my last match of the season.”
The Wildcats soon took a 2-0 lead after Kentucky sophomore Justina Mikulskyté defeated Lyn 6-0, 6-3 in the No. 5 singles spot.
Dartmouth rebounded with two consecutive wins to knot the score at 2-2. Mathis dispatched Kentucky junior Adachi 6-1, 6-3, then Dartmouth’s scored its second point when Schroeder pulled out a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Kentucky junior Emily Fanning.
“Even though we lost the doubles point, [the match] looked like it could go both ways for a while, and our team was very resilient in playing every point and doing their best,” Schroeder said.
That brand of play — clawing its way back from a deficit — was typical of this season’s Big Green squad, which went 1-2 in its first three conference matches before winning four straight en route to the Ivy League title.
“As a team, we fought incredibly hard,” Ng said.
Kentucky senior Morgan Chumney helped Kentucky pull ahead 3-2 with a 6-3, 7-6(4) win over Allison McCann ’20.
At the No. 1 position, Sutjiadi, ranked No. 22 nationally, beat Ng in three tight sets. The Kentucky senior took the first set 6-3, but Ng came back with a 7-6 win in the second set.
“After I lost the first set, my coach told me to focus on getting my shots cross-court, so I worked on that, and it worked pretty well in the second set,” Ng said. “It opened up a few more opportunities towards the middle of the points.”
But Sutjiadi got the better of Ng in the third set. Her 6-4 win clinched the match for Kentucky.
Crawford was leading 5-4 in the third set when play was stopped.
Although Dartmouth won just one more point against Kentucky than in 2016, the matches were much closer this time around. In the 2016 clash, Kentucky won three singles matches in straight sets.
“It definitely felt a lot closer this year compared to last time we played Kentucky,” Ng said. “It really did come down to the last two matches. I think this gave the team a lot of confidence going into next year, seeing that there’s not a lot of difference between us and some of these top teams.”
While the performance may have given the Big Green a confidence boost, the team will no longer be able to look to co-captains Ng and Crawford at No. 1 and No. 2 next season. Both have played their final matches for the Big Green. But for now, the team exits the NCAA tournament having proven that it can compete with the top 20 teams in the nation.
“[I]couldn’t be prouder of how our team finished the season,” Schroeder said.