Women’s tennis blasts to 6-0 start in spring season


Courtesy of CWRU Athletics

Pallavi Goculdas wins at sixth singles against the University of Mary Washington, helping CWRU to their sixth straight win of the spring season.

Puneet Bansal, Sports Editor

The Case Western Reserve University women’s tennis team started with a fiery six-game win streak in the 2023 spring season, including four 9-0 sweeps. The team’s performance in recent weeks has been highlighted by second-year Hannah Kassaie, who earned back-to-back UAA Athlete of the Week for her dominance on the court.

The Spartans opened their season on the road against Wooster College on Feb. 5, sweeping all nine matches.

 “It was a great first day to be back on the courts,” said head coach Kirsten Gambrell McMohan in an interview with the CWRU Athletic Department. “We were able to play almost the whole team so everybody got a lot of tennis … Everyone always wants lots of time on the court and to be feeling good about their game so that was really great.”

 The strong doubles play from fourth-years Nina Hoog and Shreya Ramani, third-year Caitlyn Hsu and second-years Anna Kan, Hannah Kassaie and Lily McCloskey was instrumental in securing the season opener.

“I thought Wooster played well and I thought our doubles came out really strong,” added Coach McMahon. “It was just a really solid all-around team win … [Wooster] definitely challenged us in a couple spots, so it was really great that we pulled out some of the close sets and a lot of tiebreakers.”

The Wooster match also marked the return of Ramani after more than a yearlong absence due to a knee injury.

“Playing tennis after a tough injury is really rewarding,” said Ramani. “I was able to see the value of the post-op work that I put in and it’s really gratifying to be playing with the team again.”

On their home court, the Spartans swept Otterbein College and Wittenberg University. Kassaie was instrumental in the wins, earning an 8-4 first doubles victory alongside McCloskey against Otterbein, an 8-1 first doubles win alongside McCloskey against Wittenberg and a 6-1, 6-1 win in first singles against Wittenberg. Her performance was honored with the UAA Athlete of the Week award, her first of the season.

Everyone across the roster contributed to these wins, with the duos of second-year Radha Patel and first-year Katalina Wang and Ramani and Hsu picking up second and third doubles wins, respectively, against Otterbein. Kan and first-year Elsa Syed picked up match-clinching wins following their individual victories in the singles. Third-year Chloe Ku added a 6-0, 6-2 win in fifth singles, first-year Asha Shukla took a 6-2, 6-1 victory in fourth singles, Patel won second singles 6-3, 6-1 and McCloskey completed the sweep in first singles with a 6-2, 6-4 win.

Third-years Katherine Wang and Pallavi Goculdas teamed up for an 8-0 third doubles win against Wittenberg while Kan and Hoog pulled off a tough 8-4 win in second doubles. Kan and first-year Ellior Rose took third and sixth singles, respectively, to clinch the match. Ku and Goculdas took two-set wins in their singles, while Wang won the second singles match in three sets.

“I especially thought Wittenberg gave us some good competition,” reflected Coach McMahon. “The doubles matches were a little closer than they looked like and some the singles matches were also closer than what the scores show. I definitely feel like they were a strong team and pushed us to the most so far. It was a good physical and mental test for us.”

When asked about what’s contributing to the team’s success, Ramani pointed to sheer determination and strong chemistry. 

“We have a … team where all of our players are extremely competitive and versatile. That really helps solidify and diversify every match that we play as a team. There is also a genuine camaraderie … that allows us to all push each other to be better.”

The Spartans traveled to Lexington, Virginia on Feb. 17 for a three-game road series, first taking on the No. 21 Washington and Lee University. CWRU went 2-1 in doubles, with Kassaie/McCloskey winning 8-2 in first, Patel/Wang taking second with 8-3 and Kan/Hoog falling 8-7 in third. Kassaie and Patel kicked off singles with two-set wins. McCloskey clinched the match after defeating her opponent in second singles 6-4, 6-3.

The next day, CWRU brought out the brooms again, sweeping No. 23 Christopher Newport University. Kan/Hoog, Patel/Wang and Kassaie/McCloskey went about their winning ways in the doubles. Kassaie, Patel, Wang, McCloskey, Goculdas and Shukla completed the sweep with singles victories.

On Feb. 19, the Spartans faced the No. 14 University of Mary Washington in the toughest competition they’ve had thus far. Kassaie/McCloskey kicked off doubles with an 8-0 win while Goculdas/Wang and Patel/Wang completed the doubles sweep. Kassaie, Patel and Goculdas picked up singles wins to stave off Mary Washington 6-3 for their sixth straight win. McCloskey, Kan and Shukla each played hard-fought matches in their singles but ultimately were defeated.

Kassaie won all six of her matches during this trip, earning her second UAA Athlete of the Week honors of the season and the fourth of her career.

The Spartans will return home to host Kenyon College on Feb. 26. They will then travel to Nicholasville, Kentucky to compete in the ITA National Indoor Championships from March 3-5.

“Last year was record-breaking for us and we’re hoping to go even farther this year,” said Ramani about the season ahead. “We have really lofty goals and I’m sure [that] as a team, we will definitely accomplish them.”