The Princeton men’s tennis team saw a successful season end on Friday evening, as they lost in the Round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament to the Minnesota Gophers.
The day started out strong for the Tigers (19-8 overall, 4-3 Ivy League), as they won in doubles to kick the battle with Minnesota off. However, things would turn south as the men went into singles play. Zack McCourt, Tom Colautti, Joshua Yablon and Dan Richardson took the four losses that cost Princeton the chance to advance.
The Tigers can consider this season a success given their long-standing postseason drought: no Princeton men’s tennis team had made the NCAA Tournament since the spring of 1998. In fact, their regular season record is the best the program has seen since the 1999 season.
Richardson noted that both the season as a whole and the trip to the NCAA Tournament leaves the team in excellent position to continue building the program.
“It was a huge step for us to get to the NCAA Tournament, but we also proved to ourselves that we could beat some of the best teams in the country [such as Clemson, Mississippi State, and Harvard],” Richardson said. “Playing in the NCAA Tournament was a great learning experience for the team, and I know they will use this experience to help them advance in future years.”
The Tigers now bid farewell to a strong senior class of McCourt, Richardson, Ben Quazzo and Michael Katz. McCourt and Richardson in particular have had fantastic final campaign. McCourt earned first-team All-Ivy honors and went 25-12 in singles play for the season. Richardson, for his part, put in an excellent 23-12 in his singles play.
Richardson noted that, despite the loss, ending his career with this appearance in the tournament is exactly how he wanted to go out.
“It’s really an amazing feeling to be able to say we made history,” Richardson said. “To put our team in the same conversation as some of the greatest teams to ever play here is incredible. … I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my tennis career.”
Another successful season for the Princeton women’s tennis team came to a close on Saturday morning, as they fell in the Round of 64 to the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.
The match proved to be a thrilling one, as the Tigers (12-9 overall, 6-1 Ivy League), despite falling behind early, came just short of taking the game and moving on to the Round of 32 in back-to-back years.
After falling in the doubles sets, the Tigers looked to be in trouble after junior Amanda Muliawan finished the first singles match with a loss. However, the Tigers came right back, as they took three of the next four matches behind strong play from freshman Katrine Steffensen, sophomore Alanna Wolff and senior Lindsay Graff. All three were able to win just two sets.
With the Tigers and Gamecocks tied at 3-3, the Tigers’ fate came down to the match of sophomore Dorothy Tang, doing battle against South Carolina’s Ximena Siles Luna. While Tang was successful in taking the first set 6-3, Siles Luna rallied to take the final two sets 6-3 and 6-2 respectively, putting an end to the Tigers’ season.
Despite the loss, the Tigers conclude another season as Ivy League Champions. Moreover they are well aware that, just as with this season, they will enter next season as the team to beat in the Ivy League.
“I think next year, we just have to try to do the same thing we did this year,” Steffensen said. “We knew that teams would be coming after us, but I think we did a good job of dealing with the pressure and using it to our advantage.”
Wolff expressed confidence in the team’s drawing from the additional attention to achieve even better results next year. “It’s definitely easier being the underdog, but having the confidence and experience from being defending champs the past two years will also help us.”
Seniors Graff, Joan Cannon and Katie Goepel will certainly leave on a high note after seeing their team in these back-to-back trips to the NCAA, including the program’s first win in the NCAA Tournament last year.
“It has definitely been exciting and rewarding to be able to represent Princeton at NCAAs, especially since the program has not historically had too many postseasons,” Goepel said. “I truly feel I was part of something special here and am honored to be part of this team.”