With the regular season now long behind them, both the men’s and the women’s tennis teams will now prepare for their ultimate goal: the NCAA Tournament.
On Tuesday evening, both the men’s team (19-7 overall, 4-3 Ivy League) and the women’s team (12-8, 6-1) found out their opponents in their respective NCAA tournaments, which commences Friday, May 8. The men’s team, who finished the season ranked no. 36 in the nation, will take on the Minnesota Gophers (20-7 overall, 10-1 Big 10). The women’s team, ranked no. 43 to end the season, will take on the South Carolina Gamecocks (14-10 overall, 6-7 Southeastern Conference).
While Selection Day is always a nerve-wracking experience for any team involved, it may have weighed a little more heavily for the men’s team than the women’s. For the NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Tournaments, a team that placed first in their conference automatically qualified for a tournament spot.The women’s tennis team clinched their place in the tournament outright after becoming Ivy League champions. The men’s team, having placed fourth in the Ivy League, was more on edge.
Senior Ben Quazzo, however, said that looking at brackets from previous years, this Princeton men’s team had achieved a high enough ranking that their spot was reasonably secure.
“The at-large cutoff has normally been around 42-43 [ranking],” Quazzo said. “We were kind of stressed ... [but] when the final rankings came out, we all kind of knew we were going to get a spot.”
While both teams will finish their seasons at the NCAA tournament, the two took rather different paths to get there. While the men’s team had a strong season overall, their momentum was certainly slowed by a three-game losing streak during league play, which all but cost them a chance at the Ivy League title. They did, however, right the ship with a road win against Cornell to end the season.
The women’s team, on the other hand, is riding the wave after a slow start to the season. When they started their matches over Spring Break, something appears to have clicked with this team. They won their last 8 of 10 matches in the regular season.
Senior Katie Goepel noted that the team wanted to keep these most recent performances in mind.
“We were hoping to continue the way we’ve been playing, [though] we didn’t have the greatest start to the season,” Goepel said. “We’re just trying to carry the momentum.”
Should these teams win their first two matches, their next trip will be to Waco, Texas for the Round of 16. For both teams to get there, however, they must each play University of Virginia, who finished the season with no. 5-ranked men’s and no. 10-ranked women’s teams.
Despite this, both Goepel and Quazzo sound confident in their teams’ abilities to step up next weekend.
“[Going into Tuesday] we knew that if we continued playing the way we had been playing, we would be fine no matter what,” Goepel said.
Quazzo expressed a similar sentiment about his team’s chances in the tournament: “There's no reason we [can't] do some damage.”