April 20, 2008
Hanover, NH - The Bulldogs (11-8, 7-0) clinched their first ever NCAA Tournament berth with a 4-3 victory over Dartmouth Sunday in Hanover. With the win, Yale completed an undefeated Ivy League season and clinched its first outright Ivy League Title since 1981.
With the Bulldogs down 3-2 to the Big Green, it all came down to two freshmen. While freshman Lauren Ritz's match at No. 6 singles was well in hand, freshman Lindsay Clark was battling her opponent in a third set tiebreaker. Just as Ritz evened up the overall match score at 3-3 with a 6-1 6-1 straight set victory, Clark dropped three straight match point opportunities to make it 6-6 in the tiebreaker. But the freshman showed great mental toughness and won the next two points to win her match 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) and clinch a Yale victory and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"I tried to keep as calm and collected as possible," Clark said about the pressure surrounding the final points of her match. "I had to believe in myself. I don't know if I would have been able to do this without my teammates. It was all mental in the third set."
Clark's mental toughness in the closing points of the match was representative of the team's mental toughness throughout the season, a point that Head Coach Danielle Lund McNamara has stressed all season long.
"We were absolutely the tougher team today," McNamara said. "We just had people step up in certain positions. It was really unbelievable. I'm so proud of this team."
Dartmouth jumped out to an early lead over the Bulldogs by taking the doubles point after winning two of the three doubles matches. At No. 1 doubles, junior Janet Kim and sophomore Jessica Rhee dropped a 9-7 decision to Megan Zebroski and Molly Scott. Senior Lindsey Dashiell and freshman Stevi Petrelli lost 8-5 to opponents Maggie Suydam and Georgiana Smyser at the No. 3 doubles position. Ritz and Clark were responsible for the Bulldogs lone doubles victory, a 9-8 (3) win at No. 2 doubles.
Yale responded with straight set victories at No. 1 and No. 2 singles. Kim defeated opponent Scott 6-1, 7-5 at No. 1 singles. At No. 2 singles, sophomore Rhee pulled out a 7-6, 7-5 win over Zebroski.
The Bulldogs dropped straight set matches at both No. 4 and No. 5 singles, though. Sophomore Sarah Lederhandler fell to Jesse Adler at No. 4 singles 6-3, 7-5. At No. 5 singles, Petrelli lost to Georgiana Smyser 7-6, 6-3.
Then with the Bulldogs trailing 3-2, the whole season came down to those two matches. After dropping the first set 6-1, Clark rebounded and forced the pivotal third set with a 6-4 second set win. While Ritz easily cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 victory, Clark battled opponent Mary Winingham in a back and forth third set until it all came down to the tiebreaker.
On a team that starts three freshman and two sophomores, McNamara said the team makes up for youth with upper-class leadership and a desire to compete.
"We are obviously a very young team, but we have great leadership from our upper classmen," McNamara said. "Part of why we have done so well is that they are all such great competitors. They love to compete. That's a quality you can't teach and that definitely showed this season."
McNamara said she plans on giving the team a couple days off before getting back to work to focus on the NCAA Tournament.
"We'll give them a couple of days off, but we are definitely anxious to get back on the practice court because we have a lot of things we want to work on," McNamara said. "We have a good two weeks before NCAAs. I'm so excited for them to have this experience playing the NCAA Tournament. They definitely deserve it."
After the victory, Clark said the team earned the NCAA Berth through hard work and perseverance.
"We've worked so hard this season and we've had to overcome so much," Clark said. "All the hard work we put in paid off. It was the greatest moment probably in my whole life."
1. Janet Kim (Y) def. Molly Scott (D), 6-1, 7-5
2. Jessica Rhee (Y) def. Megan Zebroski (D), 7-6, 7-5
3. Lindsay Clark (Y) def. Mary Winingham (D), 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6)
4. Jesse Adler (D) def. Sarah Lederhandler (Y), 6-3, 7-5
5. Georgiana Smyser (D) def. Stevi Petrelli (Y), 7-6, 6-3
6. Lauren Ritz (Y) def. Ryan Reichel (D), 6-1, 6-1
1. Zebroski / Scott (D) def. No. 60 Kim / Rhee (Y), 9-7
2. Ritz / Clark (Y) def. Adler / Winingham (D), 9-8 (3)
3. Suydam / Smyser (D) def. Lindsey Dashiell / Petrelli (Y), 8-5
Report Filed by Steven Horn '10, Yale Sports Publicity