No. 33 women's tennis (14-2, 3-0 Ivy) will go for its 11th and 12th wins in a row this weekend against Brown and No. 59 Yale. The Lions currently sit in a first-place tie with Princeton in the quest to defend their Ivy title.
Columbia heads into its third weekend of Ivy play having won all of its Ancient Eight matches by a 6-1 score. According to head coach Ilene Weintraub, CC '02, all of that success has helped keep practice engaging.
“We've tried to keep a light, very focused atmosphere but not anything different than what we've been doing all season long—even though everyone knows we're fighting to repeat that championship,” Weintraub said.
This weekend's first competition will pit the Light Blue against Brown (12-6, 1-1 Ivy). The Bears competed in their first Ivy contests of the season last weekend, defeating last-place Penn before dropping their match against Princeton, 6-1.
Then, on Sunday, the Lions will face the team with which they shared last year's Ivy title—Yale (9-8, 1-1 Ivy). Columbia beat the Elis at home in February to win its first ECAC title, and will be looking for a similar result this time around.
“We're pretty familiar with the girls at Brown and at Yale, so we've been doing some specific exercises to try and prepare for them,” Weintraub said. “Every team is good in the league, and Brown and Yale are both solid teams with a lot of talent.”
The Bulldogs sport the No. 65 doubles team in the nation in Ree Ree Li and Madeleine Hamilton, but they will likely face Columbia's No. 22 duo of senior Bianca Sanon and sophomore Kanika Vaidya. The Light Blue came out on top, 6-2, when the two pairs faced off in February.
But what has led to the Lions' success, and will be a key factor this weekend, is the depth of the team. Columbia's top four singles players—No. 80 Vaidya, Sanon, first-year Tina Jiang, and junior Crystal Leung—have played well, but the back end of the lineup has been pulling its weight as well. The No. 5 and No. 6 slots, handled by seniors Ioana Alecsiu and Tiana Takenaga and first-year Vivian Cheng, have been key to Columbia's success. Alecsiu in particular has been outstanding—she has yet to drop a set in Ivy play.
“We talk about the bottom of the lineup being like machines,” Weintraub said. “I asked them yesterday when they came to practice, Where's your warrior paint? You should have a black line under your eyes because you guys are like our warriors.'”
With only four Ivy contests remaining, pressure is building for the team to win and stay on top of the league. But Weintraub said she views this as a positive.
“We always talk about pressure being a privilege, and that if you're not good enough, you never get those opportunities to perform under pressure,” Weintraub said. “We try to really accept it, manage it, and channel it in the right way, so that it helps us instead of hurts us.”
“I think they are going to go into these matches feeling confident, and if it gets close, I believe in them, and I think they believe in themselves,” Weintraub added.
The Lions will face Brown on Saturday and Yale on Sunday at the Dick Savitt Tennis Center. Both matches begin at noon.
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