Men's and Women's Tennis prepare for Ivy League and look for NCAA qualifications| Mar 1, 2018
Less than a month separates the men’s and women’s tennis team from a return to Ivy League play. While both sides have been competing since September, conference play and the ensuing NCAA tournament will undoubtedly add a degree of intensity as the season progresses. Both the men’s and women’s teams have shown strong performances so far, promising an exciting and competitive 2018 campaign.
The women’s team have seemingly found its rhythm, boasting an impressive 9–1 record including three wins against Ivy League rivals in the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference). The Tigers beat the likes of Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth en route to the program’s first ECAC title. Since then the No. 25 team has continued to build momentum, sweeping Xavier and Rutgers convincingly. Its only loss so far comes from the University of Kentucky.
“We have had a great season so far. We are currently 9–1 and we were one match point away from being 10–0, so that shows how well we are playing this year,” said senior co-captain Katrine Steffensen. “We have had some really tough opponents that were a supposed loss on paper, which we were able to pull out.”
Despite graduating a strong team filled with veteran leadership, the new squad has found their chemistry with one another.
“I think a big part of our success so far has been the cohesiveness of the team — we are all extremely close so when we play, we aren't playing for ourselves, but rather for each other, for our teammates,” said Steffensen. “We are all on the same page about what we'd like to achieve this year and how we are to go about doing that, which is definitely vital for the team's well-being.”
Despite the early success, the team is careful not to rest on its laurels. With a crucial part of the season still ahead of them, the Princeton squad will undoubtedly be looking to make its mark on the Ivy League and NCAA tournaments.
“We have already achieved some of our goals for the season, but I think a big thing we need to focus on is not becoming too complacent with our results so far,” cautioned Steffensen. “We want to win the Ivy League, play NCAAs, and hopefully win a couple rounds there, so we need to keep looking to improve on and off the court.”
Last year, the women’s tennis team made a deep run for the Ivy League title. Unfortunately, the Tigers fell short after dropping their last two games to Harvard and Dartmouth. This year the Princeton team will undoubtedly be looking to top the Ancient Eight. With a balance between veteran leadership and young talent, the team looks poised to build upon its past success.
Similarly, the men’s side has also shown its potential throughout the dual-meet season. While their record may be less convincing — the men’s currently stand at 8–5 — the Tigers have managed to pull out several exciting performances, including a third-place finish in the ECAC tournament and wins against tough opponents such as Auburn in the Blue Grey National Tennis Classic. Strong finishes in the face of a difficult schedule bode well for the Tigers as they look for a deep run into the Ivy League and NCAA tournament.
The Tigers face a tough schedule, facing an especially talented Ivy League conference this season.
“The Ivy title is really competitive this year. Columbia is ranked eighth in the country, Dartmouth is ranked 14th and Harvard is ranked 24th, which is the highest three ranked teams we have had in the Ivies for as long as I have been around,” said senior Luke Gamble. “So that will be really tough and it has been a long time in the making. I think we have a shot for it, but we need to be on three weekends in a row.”
Gamble is a former ‘Prince’ columnist.
Princeton will also face several strong opponents outside of conference play. The Orange and Black have already faced off against tough opponents in Ole Miss and Auburn and will play several dangerous Florida teams over spring break.
“Now there are just no easy weekends for us,“ explained Gamble. “Part of the challenge physically is just having to play tough matches every Saturday and Sunday. When you are playing all good teams you never get a week off. So, it’s physical taxing.”
However, the difficult fixtures have only served to inspire the team.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes every weekend rewarding,“ said Gamble. “The weekends you know you are going to win, you are kind of just there all day and it is a little bit boring. But when every weekend is a challenge, especially as a senior, when you have been through this road and have had some success, you look forward to those weekend battles.”
After finding themselves in the middle of the Ivy League season last year, the Tigers are hunting for not only a stronger showing in the Ivy League, but also several NCAA qualifications as well. The difficult fixtures should serve them well as they look at each game as an opportunity for improvement.
“My opponent brought out the best in me and we found out who was better today” concluded Gamble.
The men’s tennis team will continue the season with a three-game home stand starting Saturday against Binghamton. The women will also be playing at home as they face off against Maryland and Penn State this Friday and Saturday.