Courtesy of Yale Sports Publicity
DURHAM, N.C. -- In a season full of significant accomplishments, the No. 30 Yale women's tennis team added the biggest one of all on Saturday morning at Duke's Ambler Stadium. With a 4-2 win over No. 43 William & Mary, the Bulldogs picked up the first NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship win in school history.
Yale now faces host and third-ranked Duke, which beat Richmond 3-0 Saturday, in a second-round match at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Saturday was the sort of day that Yale (22-4, 6-1 Ivy League) had been building towards for quite some time. The Bulldogs made their first team appearance in the NCAA Tournament three years ago, when current seniors Lindsay Clark, Silia DeFilippis and Stevi Petrelli were freshmen. Back then, the Bulldogs were sent to play at Georgia, ranked No. 2 in the country at the time, and fell 4-0.
That appearance was on the heels of an 11-8 regular season. This time around, the Bulldogs entered the tournament 21-4 and on a roll, having won 17 of their last 19 matches. In addition to winning their sixth Ivy League championship, earlier in the season they had won their third straight ECAC Indoor Team Championship and achieved a national ranking of No. 23, the best in school history.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs were facing a William & Mary team they had beaten 5-2 just a year earlier in the regular season. After a half-hour delay to dry the courts following a torrential overnight storm, the match got underway with a serve from junior Vicky Brook, on the No. 2 doubles team with sophomore Elizabeth Epstein, just before 9:40 a.m.
Within 10 minutes the Bulldogs had their first break -- from the team of senior Lindsay Clark and freshman Annie Sullivan at No. 1. Those two were up against the No. 43 doubles team in the country, Anik Cepeda and Hope Johnson.
Yale's top two doubles teams both jumped out to big leads, with Brook and Epstein going up 5-0 and Clark and Sullivan winning six of the first seven. Brook held serve to finish off an 8-1 win at No. 2 that gave Yale its first doubles win. At that point the No. 3 doubles match, featuring freshmen Blair Seideman and Kim Szokol, was tied 4-4, but Yale was up 6-3 at No. 1. The No. 1s held serve until a break by Sullivan finished off an 8-4 win for the Bulldogs that clinched the doubles point, Yale's first point in NCAA team play. Yale has won the doubles point in 10 of its last 11 matches.
Brook claimed a 6-0 win over Johnson in the first set at No. 2 for Yale's first singles victory, but right after that the Tribe's Katie Kargl won the first set 6-1 at No. 6. The sun made a brief appearance on the otherwise cloudy and muggy day just as Kent held serve to win her first set, 6-4, at No. 4.
Epstein, playing No. 1 for just the second time this season, gutted out a 7-6 (7-4) tiebreaker win in the first set as the Bulldogs gradually began taking control in singles. Brook broke Johnson to win her second set 6-3, taking that match to put Yale up 2-0.
At No. 3 the Tribe's Jeltje Loomans was able to snap Seideman's 10-match win streak, 6-2, 6-3. While Johnson finished off a straight-set win over Petrelli at No. 6 to tie the score 2-2, the Bulldogs remained in control of the three remaining matches: Epstein at No. 1, Kent at No. 4 and Sullivan at No. 5. Each Bulldog had won the first set, and it soon became clear that Kent and Sullivan were closing in on second-set wins that would clinch the match for Yale. Sullivan put the Bulldogs up 3-2 with a 6-1 win in her second set, leaving Epstein and Kent as the last two matches on the court.
Down 5-3 at No. 4, William & Mary's Cepeda held serve to stave off elimination. But once Kent began serving she quickly finished things off. Tied 15-15, Kent had a beautiful get on a drop shot and was rewarded when her return hit the top of the net and dropped over on the other side, putting her up 30-15. She won the next point to go up 40-15, and with the match hanging in the balance Cepeda could not put away multiple lobs from Kent on the next point. Cepeda finally sent one wide, touching off a memorable celebration for Yale.
The Bulldogs have now won six matches in a row, and they snapped an eight-match winning streak by William & Mary (16-9).
2011 NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championships
Ambler Stadium, Durham, N.C.
First Round - Match 1
1. Annie Sullivan/Lindsay Clark (Y) def. No. 43 Anik Cepeda/Hope Johnson (W&M) 8-4
2. Elizabeth Epstein/Vicky Brook (Y) def. Marlen Mesgarzadeh/Katie Kargl (W&M) 8-1
3. Kim Szokol/Blair Seideman (Y) vs. Lauren Sabacinski/Jeltje Loomans (W&M) unfinished
1. Elizabeth Epstein (Y) vs. Marlen Mesgarzadeh (W&M) 7-6 (7-4), 4-2 unfinished
2. Vicky Brook (Y) def. Hope Johnson (W&M) 6-0, 6-3
3. Jeltje Loomans (W&M) def. Blair Seideman (Y) 6-2, 6-3
4. Steph Kent (Y) def. Anik Cepeda (W&M) 6-4, 6-4
5. Annie Sullivan (Y) def. Lauren Sabacinski (W&M) 6-4, 6-1
6. Katie Kargl (W&M) def. Stevi Petrelli (Y) 6-1, 6-4
William & Mary 16-9; National ranking #43
Yale 22-4; National ranking #30
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (2,3,6,5,4)