Season Review: Green Builds Solid Foundation for Future After 2008-09 Season
Eighteen - It is a number that legally defines an adult. It is
also a number that represents the running count of Ivy League
titles the Harvard women's tennis team has. In a season of ups and
downs, the Crimson forged through the month of April, going 6-1 in
the Ivy League to win it's 18th Ancient Eight championship in the
programs 35th season. Harvard finished the year 13-8 overall, the
programs first winning season and first Ivy title since 2006.
At the start of the fall tennis season, Harvard had two battle-tested seniors, two sophomores and five young freshmen, looking towards the future while simultaneously reclaiming the past of Harvard's long standing tradition in women's tennis.
At the beginning of the season, head coach Traci Green stated that the freshmen "were all talented, energetic young women who know how to win and after years of junior tennis, are excited for college tennis and to be contributing members of our team."
It did not take long for the freshmen to turn heads on the individual level, as freshmen Camille Jania and Holly Cao won each of their flights at Columbia and William & Mary Invitational's, respectively. Jania also contributed in doubles alongside classmate Caroline Davis, to take their flight in New York City. Senior Beier Ko made it to the finals at the William & Mary Invitational, where she met preseason No. 1 Aurelija Miseviciute of Arkansas. Ko fell to the 2008 NCAA singles semifinalist, 6-1, 6-2.
Ko then traveled to Pacific Palisades, Calif., to take on the nation's elite at the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships. She opened in the qualifying singles bracket against Duke's Tara Iyer, ranked 60th nationally by the ITA. Iyer would defeat Ko, 6-1, 6-0 and go on to win her flight to qualify for the main draw at the tournament. However, Ko continued to fight in consolation play. After earning a walkover victory in the first round, she met up with Pichitta Thongdach of Boise State where she defeated Thongdach, 6-1, 7-5 (5). She was then scheduled to meet with Maria Sanchez of USC, but Sanchez advanced on a walkover and went on to win the qualifying singles consolation.
Harvard closed out its fall in Flushing, N.Y., at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Invitational. Senior captain of the Crimson, Laura Peterzan made her fall singles debut at the invitational against Stephanie Davidson of Texas A&M and defeated the Aggie in straight 6-1, 6-1 sets. She then defeated Paty Coimbra of Winthrop in the quarterfinals, 7-6 (2), 7-5. In the semifinals, it was an Ivy affair with Peterzan squaring off against Brown's Cassie Herzberg. Peterzan fought hard dropping the first set 7-6 (5) and fell in the second, 6-1.
The ice was broken for the freshmen, as all got their first taste of the college tennis experience and began building the foundations of friendship and trust, which proved vital later in the season. The end of the fall also marked a new edition to the roster, sophomore Agnes Sibilski, who became a pivotal role player for the Crimson.
The spring season opener was in familiar territory, against local rival Boston University. The eight-time defending America East champion came to the Murr Center to take on the Crimson. With three freshmen in the lineup against the Terriers, the Crimson managed to take the doubles point but was one point shy of the victory, 4-3.
Next on the register was the ECAC Team Championship hosted by Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H. Harvard opened against the host Big Green and much like the match against Boston University, the Crimson fell, 4-3. Two days later however, Harvard avenged the loss by crushing Cornell, 6-1.
Harvard returned home to Cambridge the following weekend to host No. 33 Illinois and Binghamton. The visiting Fighting Illini took charged of the match early and went on to defeat the Crimson, 5-2. Ko and Jania scored both Harvard points, as both were 3-0 thus far into the season.
Against the Bearcats, Harvard swept in doubles and took four of the six singles matches to defeat Binghamton, 5-2. Freshman Caroline Davis made her spring debut against the Bearcats to defeat her opponent, 6-3, 6-1.
Harvard then entered the toughest part of its schedule up to that point, taking on four-consecutive ranked opponents. The period started with a trip to Virginia, to take on No. 31 William & Mary, followed by No. 57 Old Dominion. Both affairs were bleak for the Crimson, falling 6-1 to the Tribe, and 5-2 to the Monarchs. The Crimson had fallen to 2-5 on the season halfway through its toughest stretch and right before the team's trip to California for spring break.
Eleven days later, Harvard hosted another Boston neighbor, No. 68 Boston College. By taking the two of three doubles matches, the momentum was in the Crimson's favor. Ko fell to BC's Lana Krasnopolsky and Samantha Rosekrans, who had gone 1-1 in Virginia at No. 3, fell as well. Peterzan and Jania came through to tie the match up at 3-3, but it was Sibilski who clinched the final point to seal the victory, 4-3. It was Harvard's first win over a ranked opponent in its previous 25 attempts.
Peterzan summed it up best when she said "The energy and desire that everyone, either playing or cheering, showed was incredible. I think that that was a moment I will treasure for a long time - not so much because we pulled out the win, but more because of the electric atmosphere that brought everyone together."
The day after the big win, the Crimson headed south to Florida to take on No. 52 Florida International and Florida Gulf Coast. Harvard fell to the Golden Panthers, 6-1, but rebounded with a 6-1 win against the Eagles.
The victory over Florida Gulf Coast was the confidence builder the team needed heading into the spring break trip, as the team opened at UC Santa Barbara, a team that had already won 11 matches. At the Gauchos complex, Harvard continued its impressive run of winning doubles point, making it two-consecutive matches en route to winning nine of the next 10. Harvard clawed its way to a 4-3 over the Gauchos, before falling to No. 26 San Diego State, 6-1.
Making her season debut against the Gauchos, freshman Holly Cao of Sydney, Australia proved to be a catalyst for the Crimson late in the season, playing at the No. 5 and No. 6 positions.
The Crimson bounced back against Santa Clara with a straight sweep of the Broncos, 7-0, before taking down Cal State Northridge, 5-2. Harvard finished with a 3-1 record during the trip to California, the first time since 2006 the Crimson had posted a winning record on its annual trip out west. The trip out west also put Harvard at 7-7 on the season.
The start of April, also signaled the starting gun of the Ivy League season. Harvard opened the Ivy register at Columbia, the Crimson put a 6-1 dismantling on the Lions. Strong play in doubles really set the pace for Harvard with No. 1 Ko and Sibilski, No. 2 Rosekrans and Cao, and No. 3 Peterzan and Jania, who would go on to a 9-0 finish as a pair.
After the Big Apple, the Crimson headed up to Ithaca to take on Cornell. Harvard showed no mercy to the Big Red, earning its second 7-0 sweep of the season and putting the Crimson atop the Ivy League at 2-0. Ko did not appear at No. 1 that weekend, resting for the rest of schedule. In her place, Peterzan commanded the No. 1 post, going 2-0 in Ko's stead.
Harvard then returned home to the familiar Murr Center for its biggest challenge in the Ivy's: No. 46 Princeton, followed by Penn. Princeton had recently come off a loss by Yale and was in a three-way tie for second place with the Elis and Brown.
Harvard started with a 1-0 advantage against the Tigers, taking the doubles point. Ko and Sibilski earned their first of two big wins as pair, defeating Hillary Bartlett and Tayler Marable, the No. 36 pair in the nation. Ko also earned a key victory at No. 1 singles over Lauren McHale to put the Crimson up 2-0, but it was the Tigers who would take over from there, defeating Harvard, 5-2, and sending the Crimson down to fourth place in the Ivy standings.
Harvard bounced back the following day against the Quakers, narrowly taking them, 4-3. With three matches left in the season, the Crimson had two ranked opponents in Brown (No. 46) and Yale (No. 58) to keep its hopes for an Ivy title alive.
Down in Providence, R.I., Harvard swept doubles and Ko, Rosekrans and Cao carried the Crimson to victory over the Bears, 4-3. The team then came back to Cambridge for a day of rest, before approaching the task at hand Sunday, Yale.
The extra day seemed to make a world of difference. Playing with extreme confidence and a pep in its step, the Crimson crushed Yale, 5-2. Harvard swept in doubles and Ko, Peterzan, Cao and Sibilski earned victories in singles. It was Sibilski who clinched the match with her victory over Lindsay Clark.
The win put destiny in the Crimson's hands. The rest of the league had finished their seasons that Sunday, putting Princeton atop the Ivy League at 6-1. However, there was still room atop the pedestal for one more as Harvard would host a rematch against Dartmouth for the Ivy championship.
It was that same week that the Crimson also broke into the national team rankings for the first time since 2007, coming in at No. 64. Ko and Sibilski and Jania and Peterzan won the doubles point in dominant fashion, with Ko and Sibilski contributing in singles as well. Sibilski more so, as she clinched the final point for Harvard over Dartmouth in dramatic three set fashion. Peterzan, Davis and Rosekrans also clinched points Harvard, giving the Crimson a 6-1 victory over the Big Green and securing Harvard's fifth Ivy title in the last seven years.
The impressive run was capped at the end of the season as Ko was named Ivy League Player of the Year and was a first team All-Ivy selection in singles and doubles alongside Sibilski. Ko was also selected as the ITA's East Region Senior Player of the Year.
Also earning All-Ivy honors was Peterzan, who received second-team accolades. Rosekrans and Cao earned honorable mention honors in doubles, and Rosekrans was also awarded honorable mention in singles. These were the second All-Ivy accolades for Ko, Peterzan and Rosekrans and the first for both Cao and Sibilski.
Ko was also selected as the Ivy League's lone representative in the 2009 NCAA Singles Championship, selected to play Nadia Abdala of Arizona State in the first round of 64. Her match against Abdala was the second longest match of the round - three hours. Abdala took the first set, 6-2, with Ko bouncing back with a 7-6 (5) victory in the second.
In the third, the two traded points to a 3-3 tie. The set's seventh game was battle as the players reached deuce nine times until Abdala went up 4-3. She increased the lead to 5-3, before Ko made it 5-4. Ko's season came to an end shortly there after, falling 6-4.
Ko finished her career 44-21 at Harvard, making three NCAA tournament appearances in singles, becoming only the third woman in Harvard history to accomplish that feat.
As a team, Harvard finished the season as No. 66 in the Campbell's ITA Women's National Team Rankings in the final poll released on May 22/29.