Women’s tennis finishes fifth at UAA’s

The University Athletic Association (UAA) is one of the top tennis conferences in the country and posed a huge test for the Spartans. The Case Western Reserve University women’s tennis team came into the UAA Championships ranked 18th in the nation. The Spartans were seeded fifth but faced a tough draw as they had to play Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), who is ranked 11th in the nation, in the first round.

Playing CMU for the second time in a week, the Spartans opened up the match by winning two out of the three doubles matches. CWRU had momentum and the lead but the Tartans quickly turned the match around as they swept all six of the singles matches for the second straight week. The 7-2 loss was an improvement from the 8-1 defeat from the week before but it still was not quite what the Spartans wanted.

Head Coach Kristen Gambrell was happy with the way her team came out and played but gave the Tartans credit for turning around the match so quickly.

“In doubles it seemed everything was going our way but then quickly it wasn’t,” she said. “Very few times in my time as Coach have we [been] swept in singles, but they did it two weeks in a row. They are very talented.”

After the loss the Spartans entered the consolation bracket where they faced the 37th ranked University of Rochester Yellowjackets. CWRU beat Rochester early in the season, but that was before Rochester had some impressive wins and entered the national rankings.

CWRU got out to an early lead and, according to Gambrell, they just “overwhelmed” the Rochester squad. The Spartans won all three doubles matches and followed that up with wins at first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth singles.

After another tough loss against CMU, Gambrell was very happy with the way her team bounced back to trounce Rochester.

“When we needed to, we stepped up,” said Gambrell. “It happened all year.”

After the Rochester win the CWRU moved on to the fifth place match against Brandeis University. This was the fifth consecutive year that these two squads met in the fifth place match at the UAA Championships. Brandies came into the match ranked 19th in the country and the teams were very evenly matched, just as their rankings would indicate.

CWRU got out to an early lead, just as they had in the previous two matches of the tournament, by taking two of the three doubles matches. This proved critical as they squeaked out victories at second, third and fifth singles. This sealed a the tight 5-4 win.

CWRU, who came into the tournament seeded fifth, finished in fifth place and improved to 17-5 on the season. The win over Brandeis gave the Spartans their seventh this season against a nationally-ranked opponent, as the team has gone 7-4 against teams appearing in the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division III Women’s Collegiate Tennis rankings.

Reflecting on the season, Gambrell was pleased with the way her young squad competed all year long.

“This is the best season our program has ever had,” said Gambrell.

Gambrell referenced her team’s consistent play against high quality opponents as the main reason for their success. Moving forward third-year student Nithya Kanagasegar is looking to qualify for nationals individually and Kanagasegar and second-year student Jessica Liu are looking to qualify in doubles. The entire team still has a chance of qualifying for the national championships as well.
Moving forward Gambrell is excited with the progress her team made and, with most of the team’s key players returning, she is excited for what is in store for next year.