The No. 36 women’s tennis team will face its toughest road test of the Ivy season this weekend as it heads north to take on No. 39 Harvard and Dartmouth.
Coming off a blowout win over Cornell last week, head coach Ilene Weintraub, CC ’02, said the Lions (12-2, 1-0 Ivy) went through practice this week focused, getting their on-court work done efficiently.
“I definitely saw the way the players came to practice with extra determination,” she said. “I think they are really confident going into the weekend.”
Columbia will first take its talents to Cambridge, Mass., to face Harvard on Friday. Ranked just three spots below the Light Blue, the Crimson (8-4, 0-0 Ivy) enters its first Ancient Eight contest coming off an upset victory over Houston last weekend. The victory vaulted Harvard in the rankings from No. 50 to No. 39. The Crimson took the doubles point from the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, and won the No. 4-6 singles matches to come away victorious.
“I think if we play our best tennis, we should come out with a win. I think we’re more prepared, and we’ve had a lot more success,” Weintraub said. “We should be OK, but it’s going to be a good match. Harvard has always had a good team.”
As for Dartmouth (3-7, 0-0 Ivy), Weintraub said that the Big Green has battled injuries this season, but should still be a good match because it’s a well-coached team. Dartmouth fell to Houston last week, 4-3.
Doubles play should be a significant factor in both matches, though on paper, the Lions seem to have the edge. With the No. 14 duo of senior Bianca Sanon and sophomore Kanika Vaidya alongside the No. 30 pair of junior Crystal Leung and first-year Tina Jiang, Columbia is the only Ivy team with two ranked doubles teams. Harvard’s Spencer Liang and Monica Lin are ranked No. 57, but Dartmouth has no ranked duos.
“We have some of the best doubles in the nation, and so winning that first point always gives us good momentum going into the singles,” Weintraub said. “I think that’s definitely an area in which we have an advantage.”
This weekend is not only the toughest road trip in terms of opponents in Ivy play, but also in terms of travel. The Lions will have a quick turnaround after Friday’s match against Harvard, having to travel to Hanover, N.H., to face the Big Green the next day. But Weintraub said that as she’s become more experienced with the schedule, she’s become better prepared to help the team manage the fatigue.
And even though every weekend in Ivy play is critical, success in this one could carry a little more weight.
“I’ve said all year if we get through Harvard, I will feel very confident going into the rest of the season that we will be able to defend our title,” Weintraub said. “Watching the girls, the way they’ve prepared this week, I feel very confident.”
The Lions will face Harvard at 2 p.m. on Friday and Dartmouth at 2 p.m. on Saturday.