By EMILY BARY ’14, Editor in Chief
It was a familiar scene for the Blue as they took to the court against MIT on Sunday, Oct. 27, though many of the players wouldn’t have known it.
Wellesley faced MIT in the conference finals for the third straight year, though this time the team boasted a fresh roster made up almost entirely of first-years.
In the end, Wellesley fell to MIT, just as the team did last year, but this year’s match was competitive in nearly all of the individual matches.
After easily defeating Wheaton on Saturday, Oct. 26, the Blue advanced to face the same tough MIT team that had defeated them 6-3 in regular season play.
In doubles, Wellesley won at the same position it won last time. Wellesley’s top doubles team of Sojung Lee ’15 and Carina Chen ’17 notched the team’s lone win at first doubles. Lina Ye ’17 and Andjela Stojkovic ’17 dropped their second doubles match 8-1, and Kendall Tada ’14 and Samantha Stone ’17 lost 8-4 in third doubles action.
In the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament, once a team wins five individual matches, the match ends, so Wellesley needed to come out on top in four singles matches to take the title. This seemed like a possibility in the beginning, as the Blue held leads in five out of six first sets. Ultimately, though, Chen was the only one to win a set, after battling back from being down in most of the first.
Tada finished her singles match first, dropping a 6-0, 6-0 decision to MIT’s Vynnie Kong at the bottom position. Then in matches that had featured tight first sets, MIT pulled ahead quickly. MIT won the fourth and fifth singles matches seconds apart, bringing the team up to the five wins it needed to take the conference title.
The end of the match was rather anticlimactic. There was no storming of the court after the final point, no enthusiastic cheering, and no lifting of players into the air, as had been characteristic of prior NEWMAC finals. Many of MIT’s players had been a part of last year’s championship team and winning the tournament seemed to be a familiar feeling for them.
For Wellesley’s newcomers, the match showed that the team could hang with some of the best players in the region. Stone and Stojkovic both came within a few points of taking their first sets, and this could have given the match a completely different dynamic.
“I think the first years played really well and came to compete, especially against MIT who had beaten us before,” Tada said. “At the beginning of the season we had to let them know about what’s expected at Wellesley and on our team, but we all bonded pretty quickly.”
With the loss to MIT, Wellesley finished its fall season 9-3, having dropped two matches to MIT and one match to defending national champion Williams. By winning the conference, MIT secured an automatic berth into the national tournament. Wellesley will have the chance to compete for an at-large bid to nationals during the spring season.
“We don’t have a lot of matches in the spring so in the beginning we’ll be looking to improve our fitness,” Tada said. “We’ve had success in our practices and competitions and we’d like to carry that momentum over to the spring.”
Wellesley tennis next hits the courts in March. The team will head to Los Angeles for spring break training and matches before hosting its first home match of the spring on March 27, taking on Tufts.