Women's tennis squares off with Kentucky in NCAA regional

by Cody Fujii | 5/12/17 1:50am

The No. 45 women’s tennis team will take on No. 17 University of Kentucky this Friday in a regional NCAA tournament match hosted by the University of Michigan. The Big Green ended its season with a strong overall record of 17-4 and a 5-2 record in the Ivy League. This season Dartmouth shared the Ivy title with Harvard University and Cornell University, clinching Ivy League’s automatic NCAA tournament bid by virtue of a complicated tiebreak scenario. The last season the women’s team finished first in the Ivy League was 2011.

“We got a lot of confidence from our spring Ivy season and this is a really great opportunity,” Taylor Ng ’17 said. “We took a week off to rest and have been working hard the last week and a half. We are focusing on staying sharp while also balancing this with rest and recovery.”

This is Dartmouth’s second appearance at the NCAA tournament. The team made its NCAA debut in 2015 after receiving an at-large bid. That year, the Big Green downed No. 49 College of William and Mary 4-1 in the first round before falling 4-0 in the second round to No. 2 University of North Carolina.

This is the fourth straight NCAA bid for the Wildcats, who play in the Southeastern Conference, perhaps the most competitive women’s tennis conference in the nation. They enter this tournament with a 16-8 record that includes six wins over ranked opponents, notably then-No. 10 and current No. 3 Vanderbilt University. Most recently, Kentucky lost to then-No. 11 University of South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference tournament. Dartmouth played Kentucky at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association kickoff weekend last January, losing 4-1. Dartmouth scored the initial doubles point before losing the next four singles matches. However, one of Dartmouth’s losses was in three sets and the two unfinished singles matches were in their third set.

“We ended up losing, but all the matches were really close,” Kristina Mathis ’18 wrote in an email “I don’t know how their team looks this year, but we will play just as hard as we have been playing all season and keep supporting each other and have fun on the court.”

Ng added that it will be key to come out strong in doubles, an area of play which sometimes gave the Big Green trouble in the regular season. Dartmouth went 12-9 in doubles in 2017.

“I don’t know their team that well, but knowing ours, it will be important for us to be aggressive for doubles because they have a very strong doubles team,” Ng said. “We need to make sure we’re executing on the day. Ultimately what it comes down to is having confidence.”

Ng also noted that this year’s team is younger than last year’s squad. The current roster has four freshman players.

“A lot of the team has never had a chance to play at the NCAA’s,” Ng said. “It’ll be a cool chance for them to be in that atmosphere.”

The current women’s team has had one of had one of the program’s best-ever seasons, accumulating the fewest losses for a Dartmouth women’s tennis team since the 2008 squad went 16-4.

“This year’s team has definitely felt like a progression — each year we have been improving, and it is great to see everything come together,” Ng said.

The tournament will be the last collegiate competition for seniors Ng and Jacqueline Crawford ’17. This is the second NCAA team tournament appearance for both players. Crawford played at the No. 4 spot in the Big Green’s 2015 NCAA run, while Ng was at the No. 1 spot, where she has played every match since her sophomore year.

“It’s great to end on a high note — it has been a great four years together,” Ng said. “This being my last tournament is definitely weird, which is why we are just trying to take things one day at a time and enjoy every minute.”

The winner of the Dartmouth-Kentucky match will play the winner of the University of Michigan-Youngstown State University match on Saturday. The winner of that match will move on to play the remainder of the tournament in Athens, Georgia from May 19-23.