Young guns face off in best match of weekend's Invite
No single match over the course of the weekend equaled the tension, intrigue and emotion of the semifinal match in the doubles tournament, which pitted the second-seeded Dartmouth duo of Jayne Ahmed '05 and Katie Jaxheimer '06 against the Boston University team of Elena deMendoza and Alana Marcu.
The match was characterized by Ahmed and Jaxheimer managing to dig themselves into considerable holes, only to resurrect their chances time and time again by capturing the most critical of points. BU held leads of 2-0, 3-1, 5-3, 7-5 and 7-6, yet in all five of these instances Dartmouth triumphed in these must-win games.
An early game that provided a distinct foreshadowing to the conclusion of the match occurred while BU held a 3-2 advantage on Ahmed's serve. Ahmed then held serve at love, compiling an ace and two service winners to go along with a volley winner from Jaxheimer to level the match for the first time.
If any single shot was central to Dartmouth's victory, it was Ahmed's serve; after getting broken at 0-1, she never again would lose serve over the course of the match.
Another key game happened at 3-5, where Ahmed and Jaxheimer managed to scratch out a service break in one of the longest games of the pro set. A loss at this point would have resulted in a nearly insurmountable 3-6 deficit, but both Big Green players come up with high-quality efforts in this important game to keep their chances alive.
As the match neared its conclusion, it became clear that the Dartmouth team simply refused to lose. After winning a game to narrow the gap to 6-7, it was up to Ahmed's serve to keep the match going. The Terriers quickly jumped out to a 15-40 lead, and in doing so secured themselves two match points.
Ahmed erased both those chances with two clutch first serves that resulted in an ace and a service winner. A third match point later in the game again fell victim to a serve from Ahmed that painted the line on the ad-side for an ace. A blistering overhead from Jaxheimer on game point allowed the Big Green to capture the game and keep their chances alive.
After another remarkable game in which Ahmed and Jaxheimer saved four game points to go up 8-7 -- the first lead of the match for the Big Green -- the BU team quickly broke back to even the match at 8-8 and send the contest to a deciding tiebreaker.
Just as had been the case throughout the entire match, the Big Green team found itself behind during much of the tiebreaker. BU jumped out to a 6-3 lead in this first-to-seven-points format, gaining three more match points. Again, Dartmouth refused to give in, and Ahmed and Jaxheimer fought off all three match points -- two of which again came on Ahmed's serve -- in rattling off four consecutive points to gain their first match point at 7-6.
After finding the score knotted at 7-7, Jaxheimer came up with a quality serve that led to another key point for Dartmouth. Ahmed and Jaxheimer would not let this second opportunity to close out the match pass them by, and the Dartmouth duo claimed the tiebreak 9-7.
"It was great to play at home and be in that position," Ahmed added. "All the doubles drilling we did in practice really paid off in a match as tight as that one. Not only that, but we fought as a team the entire match and kept each other motivated despite BU's constant lead."
In the end, the relatively inexperienced pairing of Ahmed and Jaxheimer -- Ahmed is the senior member of the duo as a sophomore -- came up with all the key points against a Terrier pair that included a junior and senior.
"Two of the keys to that match were the extremely supportive home crowd and our mindset," Jaxheimer said.
"Jayme and I tried to keep each other laughing to get rid of our nerves and have fun. We played the match one point at a time and didn't focus on the fact that we were down numerous match points."