Sports, Spring, Women's Tennis

Women’s Tennis Faces Its First Difficult Test, Prevails Over Yale

For the first four matches of the season, Boston College women’s tennis enjoyed relatively smooth sailing. The Eagles started off 4-0 and defeated all of their opponents in comfortable fashion. The waters became a bit choppier when Yale visited Chestnut Hill on Sunday.

The Bulldogs were a far different opponent than the Eagles’ past competitors, giving them a run for their money in both doubles and singles. During the singles matches, only BC’s Yufei Long was in command of her match in the early going. There was serious doubt whether the Eagles could keep their winning streak intact—the other singles matchups were decidedly in Yale’s favor or in a dead heat. Eventually, the Eagles persevered, and after a marathon matchup that lasted for nearly four hour, they came out on top, 5-2.

From the get-go, it was clear that the Eagles (5-0) would be in for a stiff test. BC’s star doubles team—Kylie Wilcox and and Jackie Urbinati—encountered its first setback of the season in a 6-4 defeat to Samantha Martinelli and Jessie Gong. While the Eagles’ duo was arguably more skilled than Yale’s (1-1) pair, the Bulldogs stayed consistent in all facets of the game, returning nearly everything it had to offer while also capitalizing on unforced errors.

With BC’s No. 1 doubles team down and out, the attention turned to the other two doubles matches. Newcomers Long—an Iowa transfer—and freshman Laura Lopez found themselves in a tight set with Raissa Lou and Caroline Dunleavy. But this time, the Eagles held the edge. While the Bulldogs put up a strong fight, Long and Lopez controlled the match with deep groundstrokes and excellent netplay, picking up a big 7-5 victory.

Now, Natasha Irani and Dasha Possokhova were the only Eagles duking it out on the doubles court. Despite trailing, 3-1, in the set, the two battled back against Caroline Amos and Kathy Wang. The Eagles narrowed the deficit to 6-5 and by this point, both teams were gathered around the court and cheering on their respective teammates.

Irani and Possokhova, feeding off the energy, stepped up their play. With their strong communication and palpable enthusiasm, they forced a tiebreaker. The momentum was clearly in the Eagles’ hands, and that was fully evident in the tiebreaker, as Irani and Possokhova blanked the Bulldogs, 7-0, to secure the doubles point and put BC up 1-0 overall in the contest.

After a brief intermission, head coach Nigel Bentley sent out his top-four singles players—Wilcox, Long, Urbinati, and Irani—to square off against Yale’s respective lineup. The Eagles’ chances of pulling out a victory looked quite grim after the first sets of these matches concluded. Only Long secured a win—a convincing 6-1 set over Dunleavy—meanwhile, Wilcox, Urbinati, and Irani dropped their sets, 6-4, 7-6, and 6-0, respectively.

Facing more opposition in the following set, Long sealed her match with a 6-3 performance in the second frame, but Irani fell in her second set, 6-4. The most surprising performance came from BC’s star player, Wilcox. The Greenwich, Conn. native was unable to bounce back from her first set, and she suffered an even tougher loss in the second set, 6-2.

Urbinati, who had forced a tiebreaker after a strong effort in the first set, appeared to be heading for a disappointing loss. The senior was down, 4-1, in the second set, as Raissa Lou maintained firm control. Incredibly, she battled back against the adversity and rattled off five unanswered games to take the second set, 6-4.

Possokhova and Lopez stepped up as the No. 5 and No. 6 singles players, respectively. Possokhova fared better than her doubles partner, managing a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Kathy Wang. Lopez—who won her first set, 6-4—and Urbinati were the only Eagles left on the court, and with BC up 3-2 overall on Yale, it needed just one player to defeat a Bulldog to secure the win.

The Eagles got that victory in the form of Urbinati. The senior parlayed her momentum from the second set into a 5-1 lead. The match appeared to be in the bag, but Lou would not back down, winning two more games. Urbinati did not lose control of the match, though, closing out a decisive set in the ninth game, 6-3, one that gave BC the necessary four points to achieve its fifth-straight victory.

While the overall score shows a 5-2 win, it was much closer than that, as the Eagles found themselves on the brink of defeat numerous times. But, in the end, Bentley’s team displayed an incredible amount of fortitude to pull out this win. Battles like this one against Yale ultimately build the character that BC will needed against teams in the ACC, a powerhouse in women’s tennis. The Eagles still have four more non-conference games remaining, and if they can continue to pile up wins, they will enter conference play with ample confidence.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor

January 27, 2019