It was a week of ups and downs for the Case Western Reserve University women’s tennis team as they achieved their highest-ever national ranking of No. 23 on Thursday then traveled to Chicago on Friday, April 11 to face off against three tough regional opponents. The team stayed at .500 with a win and two difficult losses against nationally-ranked rivals.
The Spartans got back to their winning ways in doubles play versus the University of Chicago, taking two of the three courts with the teams of Sarah Berchuck/Surya Khadilkar and
Taylor Sweeney/Michelle Djohan bringing in points for the team. But, once again, singles were the weak point for the Spartans as they were only able to pull off two victories from Sweeney and Djohan. Two other players had a chance to pull in the necessary point in a do-or-die third set, but neither Sara Zargham nor Khadilkar were able to put the nail in the coffin for the Maroons and the Spartans fell with a score of 5-4.
Coach Kirsten Gambrell was frustrated with the loss, “We just keep showing that we’re right there–as talented and as conditioned as these top teams, but we can’t get the wins.”
The team had a chance to gain some ground in a doubleheader on Saturday versus Coe College and Washington University in St. Louis. The Spartans played well against Coe, winning 7-1 over the weaker team. Berchuck/Khadilkar brought in another win on doubles along with the team of Lauren Rovner/Kennedy Mulholland. All of the singles players won their matches, giving the team some confidence in this area going forward.
But the Spartans weren’t able to keep the momentum going against No. 9 Washington University. Despite another win from Berchuck/Khadilkar and strong showings from Berchuck, Djohan, Sweeney and Khadilkar in singles, the ladies fell 6-3. This was another tough loss for the Spartan team as they will face off against the Bears again in the conference championships.
The Spartans currently are among six nationally ranked teams in the UAA conference. Despite gains through the season and strong recruiting, the women will have a tough time making it to the NCAA championships this year. Teams like Emory University and Washington are continually on the top of NCAA’s DIII rankings for many sports and have traditionally excelled in tennis as well.
The Case team still has not shown an ability to beat out elite teams, but Gambrell knows that anything is possible in the post-season. “It’s easy to forget what a young team we are, having all freshman and sophomores playing against juniors and seniors from the other schools,” said Gambrell. “We hope we’ll be able to break through at conference.”