ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Saturday, the Yale women's tennis team knocked off higher ranked Notre Dame 4-3 in the first round of the ITA Kickoff Weekend, advancing to the championship game Sunday against No. 10 Michigan, where the winner will move on to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
Yale drew first blood in doubles, taking the first point of the match with wins at No. 2, by sophomore Annie Sullivan and junior Elizabeth Epstein, and at No. 3, with the No. 39 ranked pair of sophomore Blair Seideman and senior captain Steph Kent to give the team a 2-1 victory. Sullivan and Epstein topped the No. 25 ranked team in the country by the smallest of margins, winning 9-7 over Britney Sanders and Katherine White after coming back from being down three match points. Seideman and Kent took care of their match a little more easily, with an 8-4 victory over unranked Chrissie McGaffigan and Jennifer Kellner. Yale lost the point at No. 1, where No. 16 ranked senior Vicky Brook and freshman Hanna Yu fell 8-5 to the No. 5 ranked Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews.
Said head coach Danielle McNamara, "The doubles point was really huge. We knew going in that it would be critical." McNamara went on to explain that the momentum from that first victory allowed the team to get off to quick starts in singles.
Indeed, the Bulldogs increased their 1-0 lead early with a victory by Yu in the No. 5 spot putting the team up 2-0. Yu beat McGaffigan 6-1, 6-3.
The next match to finish was a loss by Seideman at No. 2, with the final score coming out at 6-0, 6-4 in favor of Mathews.
Epstein put Yale's lead back at 3-1 with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Frilling at No. 1, topping the Midwest region's fourth best player 6-2, 7-5.
At No. 3, Notre Dame's Jennifer Kellner defeated Brook 6-4, 6-2 to pull the Fighting Irish to 3-2, however, Yale's captain Kent, playing at No. 6, clinched the match for the Bulldogs. Kent defeated Katherine White 6-2, 7-6 (3) to win the match not only for herself, but also for the Bulldogs.
Finally, Sullivan lost in the No. 4 spot 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, in the day's only three-set match.
Sunday, Yale will face No. 10 ranked Michigan with a spot at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships on the line. Michigan faced off against No. 40 Maryland in its opening match, and ended up defeated the Terps 4-2 in singles and sweeping the three doubles matches.
In terms of preparation, Coach McNamara told her team that they should "Enjoy this [win over Notre Dame] tonight but don't be content going into tomorrow. If we continue playing this way we have a really good chance to win tomorrow."
The contest against Michigan will pit McNamara against her alma mater, where she won the Big Ten Sportswoman of the Year in 1999 and made the All-Big Ten Team in 1998. However, facing off against her old team won't make McNamara any less dedicated to victory for Yale. "It's nice to be back here, and I really enjoyed my time in college," said the coach, "but I'd love to beat Michigan."
The win against Notre Dame was similarly significant for Yale assistant coach Christian Thompson, who was selected to the All-American squad three times while she played for the Fighting Irish in college.
No. 1 -- Elizabeth Epstein (Yale) d. Kristy Frilling (ND), 6-2, 7-5
No. 2 -- Shannon Mathews (ND) d. Blair Seideman (Yale), 6-0, 6-4
No. 3 -- Jennifer Kellner (ND) d. Vicky Brook (Yale), 6-4, 6-2
No. 4 -- Britney Sanders (ND) d. Annie Sullivan (Yale), 4-6, 6-2, 6-0
No. 5 -- Hanna Yu (Yale) d. Chrissie McGaffigan (ND), 6-1, 6-3
No. 6 -- Steph Kent (Yale) d. Katherine White (ND), 7-2, 7-6 (3)
No. 1 -- No. 5 Kristy Filling/Shannon Mathews (ND) d. 16 Vicky Brook/Hanna Yu (Yale), 8-5
No. 2 -- Annie Sullivan/Elizabeth Epstein (Yale) d. No. 25 Britney Sanders/Katherine (ND), 9-7
No. 3 -- Blair Seideman/Steph Kent (Yale) d. Chrissie McGaffigan/Jennifer Kellner (ND), 8-4
Report by Calvin Bohn '14, Yale Sports Publicity