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Nationally ranked sophomore Kanika Vaidya and the Lions are competing for a place at the National Indoor Championships.

After a two-month break, Columbia's No. 57 women's tennis team is back in action on Friday for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.

The Light Blue is one of four teams competing in Durham, N.C. for the opportunity to go to the ITA National Indoor Championships in February. As the number four seed, the Lions will take on host No. 10 Duke Friday morning, with No. 53 Tulane squaring off against No. 42 Kentucky that afternoon. The winner of each match will play for a spot in the Championships on Saturday evening.

“I think we're prepared as any other team that's going into this event,” head coach Ilene Weintraub, CC '02, said. “We get to play two teams that are higher than us, so they're both good matches. There are only good opportunities and outcomes that can happen for us going into this event.”

Though the team was off for much of winter break, its members returned to campus last week to begin practice.

“All the girls had trained over break, so no one was in a sense raw or lacking in timing,” sophomore Kanika Vaidya said. “We were all in top form.”

Though the Lions will be facing tough competition over the weekend, the reigning Ivy co-champions have a strong squad of their own. In singles, Vaidya is ranked No. 75 nationally, and senior Bianca Sanon is ranked No. 101. In doubles, the duo of junior Crystal Leung and first-year Tina Jiang is ranked No. 20, and Vaidya and Sanon are ranked No. 25.

“Tina is also actually at the level of Bianca and Kanika,” Weintraub said. “She's kind of like my sleeper player. People don't realize how good she is, and maybe they're going to start to now.”

Coming off a string of successes last spring and in the fall, Weintraub said that the Lions have worked hard in order to ensure that they will be ready to continue their winning ways in the spring. Vaidya said the team is poised to make that happen.

“I feel like we're all feeling pretty confident right now, but we don't let the confidence get on top of our heads because we know every team we play is going to be a good team,” Vaidya said. “Duke is a good team—so is Tulane and Kentucky—so in order to win, we have to play our best. And I think it's going to be a good weekend.”

Columbia's first match of the weekend against Duke is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday. The winners of Friday's matches will square off on Saturday at 6 p.m., with the consolation match slated for Sunday at 9 a.m. | @MSmmns210

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