Home tennis tournament produces all-Dartmouth final
The Dartmouth women's tennis team dominated the A singles flight during the weekend's Big Green Invitational, occupying three of the four tournament semifinals slots and producing its first victor in four years. Jayme Ahmed '05, Margaret Fitchet '08 and Maggie Suydam '08 reached the event's final four, and Ahmed and Fitchet advanced to the finals, where the teammates were crowned co-champions.
Against competition from UConn, UNH, Brown, Syracuse, St. John's, Boston University and Buffalo, the Big Green tallied several notable performances despite nagging injuries that harried a number of the Dartmouth players.
After brushing aside Brown's Daisy Ames 6-3, 6-2, Ahmed -- the tournament's top seed -- then ground out a pair of agonizingly tense battles against Victoria Vaynberg and Amanda Sainotz. After Ahmed took the first set 6-2 from Vaynberg, the Syracuse player rebounded to win the second frame decisively, 6-1. The resulting superbreaker produced arguably the most nerve-racking play of the weekend.
After dropping the first two points, Vaynberg rolled off six consecutive points before Ahmed responded with her own four-point streak to knot the score at six. Vaynberg eventually picked up a match point at 9-8, which Ahmed subsequently erased. At 10-10, the Jersey girl constructed a point worthy of Stefan Edberg, with an excellent approach and volley winner before finally closing out the match on the next point.
The semifinal battle between Ahmed and Brown's Sainotz ended up again in a superbreaker, which Ahmed captured 10-2. Despite not playing her best tennis, the fiery fourth-year demonstrated how she could still produce wins without having her top game.
Blazing trails through the competition on the other half of the draw was the precocious pair of Fitchet and Suydam. Fitchet did not play a set closer than 6-3 in any of her three matches, as her pinpoint accuracy from the baseline constantly befuddled her opponents.
In the first round, Fitchet clobbered Jen LoRusso of UConn 6-1, 6-0, and then followed up with another convincing triumph against Brown's Michelle Pautler by the count of 6-0, 6-3 before defeating teammate Suydam to reach the finals. Fitchet's outstanding play both this weekend as well as over the course of the fall campaign showcased to the Dartmouth faithful her remarkably consistent and efficient game.
Of all the Dartmouth players, Suydam attained a win over the highest seed with her quarterfinal victory over second-ranked Alex Arlak of Brown. Suydam set the tone early against her Ivy League adversary by winning the first five games, and the fearless freshman never relinquished the momentum, eventually winning in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2.
Before her match with Arlak, Suydam let her cobras escape from the zoo against Kristen Ortman of Buffalo, winning the opening round encounter 6-3, 6-1. Her athletic performances provided a vivid example of the team's noted conditioning and weightlifting program.
In doubles, all three Dartmouth tandems reached the quarterfinal round. The top-seeded duo of co-captains Ahmed and Sarah McNally '05 jiggled out a first-round victory against Syracuse's Huignard and Leung by the score of 8-4. Kerry Snow '07 and Natalie O'Rourke '08 also earned a pair of doubles victories against New Hampshire and UConn. Additionally, the duo of Suydam and Fitchet added to their solid weekend by collecting a win against a team from Buffalo.
While the tournament was beset with some inconsistency and injury issues on the part of the Big Green, Dartmouth still produced several highlights and looks well prepared for the dual match season set to commence in the winter.
"We showed great mettle as a team in this tournament since four players out of the six that participated were injured," Ahmed said. "Despite being tired or hurt after a long season, we played in what matches we physically could and competed to the best of our ability."
"I feel confident about our team and the progress we've made over the course of the fall," Suydam added. "I think we'll definitely improve upon last year's record."