In the opening match of the NCAA tournament in Lubbock, Texas, women’s tennis came within a point of knocking out No. 19 Illinois University, but fell just short to lose 4–3.
Princeton was able to earn the point for doubles, winning two out of three matches. Sophomore Clare McKee and senior Katrine Steffensen defeated Emilee Duong and Jaclyn Switkes, while senior Sara Goodwin and freshman Nathalie Rodilosso defeated Asuka Kawai and Mia Rabinowitz to secure the doubles point.
In the singles division, Steffensen was able to earn a crucial point against Illinois’s top player, No. 74-ranked Switkes. She won the first set 7–6 and dominated the second with a 6–0 win to seal the match. Also coming up victorious for Princeton was sophomore Gaby Pollner, who defeated Sasha Belaya in straight sets, 7–5 and 6–1.
Unfortunately, the Tigers were unable to earn the fourth and final point needed to advance to the next round of the tournament. Stephanie Schrage, McKee, and Rodilosso all lost in straight sets for Princeton, falling to Kawai, Rabinowitz, and Duong respectively. The closest match of the afternoon was played between junior Nicole Kalhorn for Princeton and Daniela Novak for Illinois. Kalhorn won the first set 6–3 but was unable to close out her opponent, but Novak took the final two sets 6–3 and 6–4 to earn the win for herself and to seal the victory for Illinois.
Illinois advanced to play Texas Tech in the finals of the Lubbock Regional but ultimately fell 4–2 on Saturday.
Despite the defeat, Friday marked the culmination for a successful season for the team. They finished the season 19–4, good for the second most wins in program history. They also won the Ivy League title for the fourth time in five years, a remarkable accomplishment.
Next year, the Tigers will undoubtedly look to maintain their status as the team to beat in the Ivy League. They will be faced with the daunting task of replacing their top singles player, Steffensen. However, they will be returning several key contributors from this year’s team, including Kalhorn, McKee, Schrage, and Rodilosso, the last two of whom were freshmen this year.
Thus, if the team can build off this experience and continue to improve entering next season, it is easy to imagine it on the winning end of an NCAA regional match.