NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Friday, the Yale women's tennis team will begin the 2012 fall season my sending four players to Cary, N.C. to play against some of the nation's best competition.
Represented at the tournament are last season's No. 3 team, Duke, Nos. 8-11 in UNC, Miami, Texas and Alabama, No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 21 Illinois and No. 26 Purdue. Yale, ranked No. 29 at the close of last season, and unranked Furman as well as William and Mary round out the list.
This year, Yale will miss the contributions of graduated seniors Vicky Brook '12 and captain Steph Kent '12, but has added a strong freshman class. New players Courtney Amos, Madeleine Hamilton, and Ree Ree Li make up the eighth-ranked freshman class in the country. Amos, who hails from Arizona, is a five-star prospect who peaked at No. 45 in recruiting. Hamilton is a blue chip recruit from North Carolina that was the nation's No. 9 recruit, according to tennisrecruiting.net. Finally, Li, a five-star recruit, was the only player in North Carolina ranked higher than Hamilton, at No. 16 nationally.
The returning Yale players will be lead by senior captain Elizabeth Epstein. Epstein begins the season as the No. 85 ranked singles player in the nation, and will look to build on a strong season in which she put together a 25-13 record while playing at No. 1.
Epstein also had a great year in doubles, which was the strength of Yale's success as a team. In fact, Yale only lost two doubles points all year en route to a 20-4 record that earned the Bulldogs their second consecutive Ivy League title and trip to the NCAA Tournament, where the Bulldogs won their second match of all time. Epstein's usual partner was junior Annie Sullivan, and together that pair compiled a 21-1 record that impressed the ITA ranking system enough to begin the new season ranked No. 40. Sullivan also had a strong season in singles, going 25-10 and ending the year on an 18-3 run.
Yale's other returning junior is Blair Seideman. Seideman played Nos. 2 and 3 singles for the Bulldogs last season, putting together a 21-15 record that is impressive even before considering that she ended the year 16-4, saving her best tennis for the Ivy League season. Seideman also reached a No. 38 ranking in doubles, playing with Kent.
The Bulldogs will also bring back senior Sarah Guzick, who joined the team last season and put together a 6-5 record in singles in the Nos. 5 and 6 spots and a 3-3 doubles record.
Yale will also bring back two sophomores in Hanna Yu and Amber Li. Yu played at Nos. 2 and 3 in singles, putting together an excellent 26-10 record. In doubles, she peaked at No. 16 in the national rankings, playing with Brook. The pair also earned first team All-Ivy honors. Li spent most of her time playing doubles last season, at one point earning a No. 78 ranking from her play with Brook. She also put together a 6-3 record while playing with Sullivan.
The four Bulldogs making the trip will be Epstein, Seideman, Ree Ree Li and Hamilton. The first round of singles play will kick off at 10 a.m. Friday, and the Yale players participating will be in three different brackets.
Epstein will be the lone Bulldog in the blue bracket, which is composed of the highest ranked players at the tournament. She will play her first match against Caroline Rohde-Moe of Ole Miss, the nation's No. 55 player according to the preseason ITA rankings.
In the black bracket, Li will be the lone Bulldog, going up against UNC's Gina Suarez-Malaguti in the first round.
The final two Yale players, Seideman and Hamilton, will be playing in the white bracket. Seideman will start the 2012 fall season against Texas' Juliana Gajic, while Hamilton will go up against Stefania Hristov of Texas A&M in her first match as a Bulldog.
Each bracket consists of 16 players, meaning that four victories are necessary to win each individual draw. There is also a consolation bracket for any players that drop an early match.
In doubles, Yale will divide into two pairs. The two upperclassmen travelling, Epstein and Seideman, will be playing together in the A bracket while Hamilton and Li compete in the B bracket. The elder duo will start off against a pair from Texas A&M made up of Hristov and teammate Wen Sun. Epstein and Sullivan have not played together much recently, losing their sole match last season, but in the 2010-11 season, they played together eight times, compiling a 3-5 record. The two freshmen will go up against Lauren McHale and Caroline Price, hailing from UNC.
Report by Calvin Bohn '14, Yale Sports Publicity