Women’s tennis competes at annual ITA Regionals at Army, men to play their rendition at Penn next week

No Big Green women qualified for the Super Regional tournament, but the men have a chance to qualify when they play in their tournament next week.

by Sydney Wuu and Lanie Everett | 10/11/21 2:20am

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Alejandro Quiles ’23 said that the men's team is looking to foster greater cohesion ahead of their tournament next week.

Source: Courtesy of Alejandro Quiles

Four players from the women’s varsity tennis team competed in the annual Intercollegiate Tennis Association Northeast Regional Championship tournament at Army West Point from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3. Although the Big Green women did not qualify for Super Regionals, the men have a chance to do so when they play in their ITA Regional tournament at the University of Pennsylvania from Oct. 15 to 19. 

According to women’s tennis head coach Bob Dallis, the three-day ITA Northeast Regional Championship tournament is a qualifier for the national tournament held in San Diego at the end of fall. Dallis noted that the level of competition at the ITA Regionals was “very high,” as the Regional Committee analyzes all the entries and deems which players are “worthy to compete.” Four Dartmouth women — Nicole Conard ’22, Chloe Yoo ’25, Chidimma Okpara ’23 and Ashley Hess ’23 — received invitations.

Conard and Yoo won their doubles match on Day 1 of the tournament with a narrow 8-7(5) victory over Harvard University, while Hess and Okpara fell to Army in a nail-biting 8-7(4) match. On day two of the tournament, the Big Green won all but one of their opening round singles matches, with Okpara, Hess and Yoo advancing to the Round of 32. From there, Okpara was the lone member to advance, defeating University of Massachusetts Amherst's Renata Farima, 3-6, 6-3 (10-8). On day three, Okpara fell in the singles round of 16, while Conard and Yoo also dropped their round of 16 doubles match, rounding out play for the Big Green. 

“Individually, some of the women might say, ‘I wish I won this match’ or ‘I feel like I could’ve done a little bit better,’ but from a standpoint of what we’re working on and where we’re trying to get to come April, I thought that they played really well and positioned themselves to continue to improve,” Dallis said. 

Dallis added that the tennis season can be broken down into two parts: more tournament-style play from September to the beginning of November, and more traditional team-vs-team play from January to May.

“Through the beginning of November, the goals really are to define who and what we are as a team — both what our teams’ strengths are, what we need to get better at and then how much we are willing to push each other as a group to get better,” Dallis said. 

The women’s team will head to Brown University next Saturday, Oct. 16 to play at the Brown Invitational, while the men’s team spent last weekend playing at the University of Georgia Bulldog Invitational and will head to Penn for the ITA Northeast Regional Championship next week.

On their road to regionals, the men’s head coach Xander Centenari ’13 underscored just how far the team has come since preseason. 

“We have a young team that is willing to work and understand more and more and what it is like to be a part of a college tennis team,” Centenari said. “Our big focus has been on competing: to manage momentum, deal with adversity and maximize every ball at practice.”

Even the seniors on the men’s team have had only two full years of playing experience due to COVID-19. In the 2019-2020 season, however, the Big Green showed out strong at the tournament: Dartmouth’s Charlie Broom ’20 took home the men’s single title at the ITA Northeast Regional Finals. 

Centenari said that there is a “renewed energy” that all of the boys have taken upon themselves to “maximize each day.”

Hikaru Takeda ’25 said that he is looking forward to competing in next week’s tournament, noting that he may compete against formidable opponent Columbia University.

“Columbia has the strongest team in the Ivy League, so I don’t know if I’m actually playing them, but I’m excited to get better,” Takeda said. 

Carlos Guerrero Alvarez ’25 added that the season so far has gone well although he thinks the level of tennis at the ITA tournament will be “pretty high” considering that Columbia and Harvard will both be present.

“The season has been pretty good,” Alvarez said. “I thought I was going to do a bit worse because the people here are really physical, but I think I adapted pretty well to the level and improved a lot this month, and so that translated onto my results. I’ve been winning really tough matches against really good people.”

Used to playing singles, Takeda and Alvarez are adapting to playing both singles and doubles as collegiate athletes for the Big Green.

“I’m not really used to doubles,” Takeda said. “You have to hit volleys and I’m not really confident in volleys, but preseason was a great way to practice.”

Alejandro Quiles ’23 said that the team has been trying to mesh together to form a more intentional focus in preparation for regionals. 

“Our team is just trying to work on being more cohesive and supporting each other,” he said.

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