Sports | Tennis

Women’s tennis handles Penn to stay in title hunt

  • Still perfect | First-year Tina Jiang won her singles match in the Lions’ victory, and has yet to lose in Ivy play.

The No. 37 women’s tennis team took care of business Friday afternoon, posting a dominating 6-0 victory over Penn on Senior Day. The win sets up an Ivy Championship showdown with No. 58 Princeton in New Jersey on Sunday.

Though the Lions (16-2, 5-1 Ivy) can still defend their conference title, they will have to share it. Princeton (17-5, 6-0 Ivy) clinched at least a share Friday afternoon with its 6-1 win over Cornell (7-9, 0-6 Ivy). But if the Lions come away victorious on Sunday, they will clinch their own share and will receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament based on the head-to-head matchup, should the conference finish in a two-team tie.

To ensure Sunday’s matchup would be for all the proverbial marbles, the Light Blue vanquished the Quakers, who remain winless in conference play (7-10, 0-6 Ivy). Columbia came out firing in doubles, with No. 12 senior Bianca Sanon and sophomore Kanika Vaidya posting an 8-0 win, and No. 36 junior Crystal Leung and first-year Tina Jiang clinching the doubles point with an 8-6 triumph.

“They were not really awake, and things felt really slow,” Vaidya said of her and Sanon’s match. “But I think we stayed in it. We kept it solid and clean, and we came out on top, which is nice.”

With a 1-0 lead, Columbia’s success kept on coming in singles, where the Light Blue’s top three courts finished first to clinch the match. Jiang kept her undefeated conference record alive on the third court with a quick 6-0, 6-0 win. 

“I was serving well, so I think that really helped my game in general,” Jiang said. “I’m just going out there and having fun.”

No. 121 Vaidya followed suit with a 6-3, 6-1 victory on the first court, and Sanon delivered the clincher with a 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 2.

“It was cool to be able to clinch the match on my Senior Day,” Sanon said. “I knew for this match I just really needed to buckle down, focus in on what I was supposed to do and get out of there.” 

With the match in hand, Leung gave the Lions a 5-0 lead with her 6-4, 6-2 win, and senior Tiana Takenaga came back for a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 10-7 win with a 10-point, third-set tiebreaker. Senior Ioana Alecsiu won her first set 7-5 on the fifth court, but with the day’s decision already made, the match went unfinished.

As the last home match for the class of 2014, Sanon called the day’s victory bittersweet.

“I feel like we know where the program is going to go in the future,” Sanon said. “We know where we’re leaving it off, so it feels good.”

Head coach Ilene Weintraub, CC ’02, said the three seniors have been invaluable to Columbia’s turnaround over the last few years, and put them on par with one of men’s tennis head coach Bid Goswami’s current classes.  

“Bid I know likes to call his junior class the ‘Greatest Generation,’ and I feel very competitive with him there because Bianca, Tiana, and Iani have been so committed to this program,” Weintraub said. “They are tremendously hard-working, loyal, ambitious, dedicated, and committed young women and I am very sad that they will not be with us next year. But I’m also very proud of what they’ve accomplished and excited for what the future holds for them.” 

But the team still has work to do against Princeton on Sunday in order to realize its season goals. 

“We knew from the beginning of the season, if we wanted to be undefeated, especially the way Princeton’s been playing, we would have to beat Princeton to win the title,” Sanon said. “So it’s no different for this match.”

Sunday’s showdown in New Jersey will begin at noon.

myles.simmons@columbiaspectator.com | @MSmmns210

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