The UR women’s tennis team wants everyone to understand something: it doesn’t matter what your team is ranked anyone can be brought down.
They delivered that message in a dramatic fashion to Washington University in St. Louis, taking the No. 14 Bears down in the opening round of the University Athletic Association Championship, 5-4 this past weekend.
It was a major breakthrough in an otherwise punishing tournament. In the semifinal round, Emory University ended UR’s run with a 6-0 win. Carnegie Mellon University’s victory over the ‘Jackets in their final round left UR with a fourth-place win and a 12-6 final overall record.
‘The team had a tremendous season,” head coach Matt Nielsen said. ‘They worked hard each day at practice and deserved all the success that they have had.”
Hosted by Case Western Reserve University, the women’s tennis UAA Championships have, of late, not been kind to UR. Since 2002, the Yellowjackets have failed to breach the opening round. That they did so this year, and accomplished a stunning upset along the way, reflects well upon an eight-person team with no senior leadership.
The WashU game last Friday featured powerful turns by several team members. Junior Lia Weiner kicked things off with a 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1 win. Freshman Frances Tseng followed, 6-4, 6-1, as did sophomore Alexandra Goodman, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Weiner and Tseng combined their prowess for a doubles win, 8-4, before the Bears began edging their way back from the brink.
This left sophomore Danielle Shreck with the responsibility of getting UR into the next round.
‘The last time the win came down to my match, which was against Skidmore, I lost in a third set tie-breaker,” Shreck said. ‘I just felt that I had to win this one for my team. We really deserved this win [against WashU] and it felt amazing for all of us to finally prove ourselves and tennis abilities in the rankings.”
The victory, though, put UR against an even more formidable team: No.4 Emory, coming into the match with a 15-4 record.
This time the rankings held, and the Yellowjackets attempted to secure third place against Carnegie Mellon. Even as Tseng led over her opponent in the No. 2 singles position, though, the match came to an abrupt end it became clear that the Yellowjackets could not win at a 0-6 deficit.
Nielsen praised both opponents afterward.
‘Emory and Carnegie Mellon both have very tough teams,” Nielsen said. ‘They have great depth in their line-ups. We came up a little short in the matches but competed hard.”
There may have been room for a little additional happiness, as well: The University of Chicago dominated Emory 5-3 in the final round.
The members of this year’s team now have next season to look forward to, since none of the players are graduating.
And Tseng sees hope for next season.
‘We will continue to come into the matches with confidence and continue trying our best.”
Brenneman is a Take Fiver Scholar.