This was definitely not the home opener that Northwestern women's tennis (1-3) had in mind. In the first of a tough weekend doubleheader, the Wildcats fell to Vanderbilt (2-1) by a score of 5-2. Northwestern and Vanderbilt had battled each other last year in Nashville, which saw Northwestern win the doubles point but fall short in the singles matches. Such was not the case this year.
Northwestern had a promising start to the doubles point, with early leads on Courts #2 and #3. The ’Cats duo of Christina Hand and Inci Ogut continued their strong start to the season, as they took a commanding 4-1 lead against Dasha Kourkina and Amanda Meyer. However, Vanderbilt, who was led by senior Christina Rosca, quickly made a comeback on each court and it was enough to secure them the doubles point. The first doubles pair Julie Byrne and Clarissa Hand of Northwestern saw their 2-1 lead disappear and dropped into a 3-5 hole which shifted the momentum. Briana Crowley and Hannah McColgan also gave up their 2-1 lead and fell 3-6 to Vanderbilt, which resulted in an early ending for Christina Hand and Inci Ogut over on Court #2.
The singles matches weren’t any better for Northwestern, as they started off in a hole on almost every court. Vanderbilt’s Georgia Drummy added a second win to their tally with a dominating 6-1, 6-2 performance over Ogut on Court #2. Rosca followed up her strong performance with an even stronger singles appearance. She added to Vanderbilt’s win tally with two statement (6-3, 6-2) wins versus Byrne in a highly-touted game on Court #3.
The lone bright spot for the Wildcats in the singles matches was Clarissa Hand. She took control of the first set, winning her first set 6-1. She fell behind a bit in the second set, 3-4, but came alive afterwards to win the set 6-4. Over on Court #5, Crowley played a strong first set, as she came back from 3-5, although she lost 6-7 (5-7 tiebreaker). However, her performance was not enough to beat Anna Ross, which sealed the deal for Vanderbilt. Junior Caroline Pozo picked Northwestern up, as she battled and won her match 6-2, 5-7, 10-4, and brought Northwestern to 2 wins in the singles matchup.
Unfortunately, Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt only continued Northwestern’s downfall; the ’Cats lost to 17th-ranked Princeton 5-2 in a strong back-and-forth battle that went down to the wire.
The Wildcats, led by coach Claire Pollard, saw both success and rough losses in a tightly contested matchup. After dropping two matches in the doubles round, the ’Cats saw some success in the singles round with convincing 2-0 victories in the #1 and #6 matches, won by Byrne and Hannah McColgan, respectively. Byrne played aggressively by playing more upfront in her matchup against 24th-ranked Brianna Shvets, going on several breaks of 2-1 and winning both sets 6-3.
“The ability to come forward is an increasingly difficult skill to implement now in today’s game with the speed of the ball,” Pollard said. “It’s certainly a skill we like, but right now we’re sort of more fixated on what did we do well, how do we do better.”
McColgan was also strong in her play, winning her doubles match with her partner Crowley 6-3 over Clare McKee and Zoe Howard, before dominating the #6 matchup over Michelle Sorokko with set victories of 6-1, each. The rest of the matches didn’t go as well, with both Clarissa Hand and Crowley taking their first sets into deep tiebreakers before losing their #3 and #4 matches against 55th-ranked Howard and Stephanie Schrage, respectively. Hand lost her tiebreaker and then dropped the next set 6-2, while Crowley won hers, but dropped the next two sets 6-1 and 6-3, respectively.
“I just think when you play no-ad scoring, every point really matters,” Pollard said, referring to the tiebreakers and how the team may need to work on them in the future. “I’m not sure we’re there yet at making great decisions throughout every point. I think that will be a sign of growth I think you’ll see throughout the season.”
The ’Cats are now 1-3 after the tough weekend and will travel to South Bend next Saturday to take on Notre Dame at 5 p.m..