CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— The No. 1 Wesleyan women's tennis team was back in action this weekend for the first time since its 2019 NCAA Championship Title. The Cardinals started off the 2019-20 season at the MIT Invitational in an individual tournament alongside No. 6 Amherst, No. 9 MIT and No. 12 Tufts. It was the college debut for Wesleyan's five freshmen, all of whom recorded their first college victories. Leading the way was Caitlyn Ferrante, who won the singles title, coming out on top in several tight matches.
Also making waves this weekend was first-year Serim Jin who dropped her first match, but battled back, making a run all the way to the consolation draw title. In the doubles consolation final, it was an all-Wesleyan affair, with Alexis Almy and Sasha Gaeth topping sophomore duo Megan Tran and Sophie Henderson 8-6.
"It was a great opportunity for such a young group to get match experience against several of the top teams in the region and country," expressed head coach Mike Fried. "It was extremely cool to see everyone on our team playing with so much fire and at a very high level in our first outing. I am very happy with the results, but even more so with how we carried ourselves and competed. I am excited for the rest of the season."
DAY ONE HIGHLIGHTS
- Almy, who scored key victories to help the Cardinals to their NCAA title last year, picked up right where she left off, topping All-American Camile Smukler of Amherst 6-4, 7-5 in her first match. In her second round, she fought back from down a set to beat Sara Fernandez of MIT (2-6, 6-1, 10-3).
- Ferrante was impressive right out of the gate, winning her first college match 6-3, 6-2 over Seraphim Castelino of MIT. She followed up her first performance up with a 6-7, 6-4, 10-4 win against Maggie Owensby of Amherst.
- Also winning their first career matches was Geath, who topped All-American Libby Rickeman of MIT 6-3, 6-3, and Jin, who bested Anna Lowy of??? 6-1, 6-1. Both wins were in the opening round of the consolation bracket, while in the main draw, Katie Fleischman was victorious over Anya Ramras of Amherst 6-1, 6-2 to notch her first win as a Cardinal.
- Other singles winners in the consolation bracket were sophomores Tran and Kristina Yu, who both advanced with dominant wins. Tran dropped only one game, while Yu cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 win.
- On the doubles court, Yu and Ferrante paired together for Wesleyan's only win. The tandem jumped out to a big start and had no trouble against MIT for an 8-0 win to advance to the quarterfinals.
DAY TWO HIGHLIGHTS
- Ferrante set the tone for the day with a big win over Jackie Bukzin of Amherst, as the Wesleyan freshman topped the 2019 ITA Northeast Rookie of the Year 6-2, 7-6 to advance to the semifinals. In the semifinals, she took on freshman Madeline Suk of Tufts. After a tight first set, Ferrante's steadiness and variety were too much, as she finished 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the singles final.
- Almy spent roughly seven hours on the court throughout the day during her two singles and two doubles matches. She began with a 7-6, 6-2 win over Sarah Pertsemlidis of MIT in a match that's first set lasted almost two hours. Not long after that win, Almy was back on the court again, taking on Tufts' Tilly Rigby in a semifinal match. Despite a tough battle with several comeback pushes, she ultimately fell 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
- In the singles consolation draw, Yu fell to Smukler in three sets, while both Gaeth and Jin won three set battles to set up a match against each other. In that all-Wesleyan battle, Jin came out on top to advance to the consolation final.
- Ferrante and Yu continued their dominant play in their first match, beating Tufts 8-0. In the semifinals, their run was cut short, as the duo fell 8-3 to Amherst.
- The doubles consolation saw plenty of Wesleyan action, as Tran and Henderson won twice to advance to the final, while Almy and Gaeth topped Fleischman and Caitlin Goldberg in the consolation semifinal to advance. Earlier in the day, Goldberg and Fleischman won their first doubles match with an 8-4 victory over Tufts.
DAY THREE HIGHLIGHTS
- In the singles main draw final, Ferrante topped Rigby of Tufts. The first set was long, but Ferrante stepped up in a tiebreak, sealing the triumph with a drop shot. In the second, Rigby persisted, but Ferrante pulled through to cap her weekend with a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory to win the tournament. It was the second-straight year where the title went to a Wesleyan rookie, as Kristina Yu took the crown last year.
- Jin finished off the weekend with a tough three set win over Smukler, the All-America from Amherst. After taking the first set, Jin looked to be out of gas, but found an extra gear to make another push and take the match 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
- Almy and Gaeth took the doubles consolation final with an 8-6 win over teammates Henderson and Tran, coming back from a 6-3 deficit in a match where all four players displayed good hands and powerful groundstrokes.
- After a weekend off from competition, the Cardinals will travel to Middlebury on September 27th for the ITA New England Championships, where the top players in the region will compete for a spot in the ITA Oracle Cup the following week in Georgia. Wesleyan has had a winner in either the singles or doubles for the past five years, including a doubles victory by Victoria Yu '19 and Kristina Yu last fall.
--Recap by Ben Shapiro--