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Going into Saturday’s match against Dartmouth, the Harvard women’s tennis team was out of contention for the Ivy League title, and it knew its contest against the Big Green was going to be its last of the year.
But the Crimson (11-7, 4-3 Ivy) had something else to play for: retribution. Having lost to Dartmouth (8-13, 2-5) last year, 4-3, Harvard was looking for a chance to get back at its conference rivals.
And the Crimson did just that, beating the Big Green by the same score of 4-3 at Boss Tennis Center and Gordon Pavilion on Saturday in Hanover, N.H.
“We lost to Dartmouth last year, and we were still kind of bitter about it, which is a good thing,” senior Samantha Gridley said. “You want to come into the last match really wanting it. It’s hard at the end of the season to still come with the same fire that you had in the first match, but we definitely had that going in.”
The win tied the Crimson with Columbia—who Harvard beat, 4-3, three weeks ago in the team’s second Ivy contest—for third place in the Ancient Eight behind Princeton and undefeated Yale.
The victory also pushed the Crimson above .500 in conference play to a record of 4-3.
Harvard’s losses came against the Bulldogs, the Tigers, and Penn, which finished in sixth place with a 2-5 Ivy League record.
“We came into the weekend really hoping to end in third place,” junior co-captain Kristin Norton said. “We knew we couldn’t win the Ivy League anymore, but we still wanted that third-place spot.”
“We actually could have landed in a three-way tie for second if Princeton lost,” Norton added.
Norton, junior Camille Jania, and freshman Kelly Whelan, all won both their singles and doubles matches to lead Harvard to the 4-3 win.
The Crimson dominated the doubles matches, winning on all three courts.
This proved to be the deciding factor as the two teams split the singles matches, 3-3.
The tandem of Whelan and sophomore Natalie Blosser defeated Dartmouth’s Rachel Decker-Sadowski and Janet Liu, 8-3, on the No. 2 court. Meanwhile, Gridley and Jania took down Melissa Matsuoka and Theresa Smith at the No. 3 spot by the same score.
The No. 1 court was a closer battle, but Norton and junior co-captain Hideko Tachibana topped Jeri Reichel and Akiko Okuda, 8-6, to give Harvard the doubles sweep.
Up 1-0, the Crimson entered singles play. Norton and Blosser were the first players to finish at the No. 2 and No. 4 positions, respectively. Norton overcame Liu, 6-4, 6-4, while Blosser lost to Smith, 6-2, 6-2.
Both Tachibana and Jania’s first sets went into a tiebreaker. On the No. 1 court, Tachibana dropped the first set, 7-6(4) before losing the second, 6-1. But Jania kept Harvard one point ahead by taking a 7-6(3), 6-3 decision over Okuda at the No. 3 spot.
Gridley, at the No. 5 position, and Whelan, playing on the No. 6 court, went into three sets each.
Having lost the first set, 6-1, Gridley came back to take the second set by the same score, but the Big Green’s Sabrina Stewart won the final set, 7-6(4), to tie up the team score.
The match came down to Whelan’s matchup against Decker-Sadowski. Whelan lost the first set, 1-6, but won the next two, 7-5, 7-5, to clinch the team win for the Crimson.
“Everybody just fought so hard, and I was really proud of Whelan for pulling that out for us at the end,” Norton said.
The match put winning bookends on Harvard’s spring season and was the last competition for its lone senior, Gridley.
“I think that everybody wanted to win not only for us but also for me because it was my last match as a senior,” Gridley said. “Everybody just fought so hard. And it was kind of emotional at the end, but I was so glad that we were able to pull it out and end the season on a high note like that.”
—Staff writer Taryn I. Kurcz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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