Coming off a successful ITA Tournament the weekend before last, women’s tennis continued to showcase its doubles prowess last weekend at the Gail Smith Doubles Tournament, hosted by Middlebury. Co-captain Cary Gibson ’09 and partner Nikki Reich ’11, who captured the ITA doubles crown and garnered All-American honors, finished second. Kristin Alotta ’12 and Taylor French ’12, who made it to the semifinals of the ITA followed suit, ending the Middlebury Tournament undefeated.
“Overall, the weekend was extremely valuable to every doubles team,” Head Coach Alison Swain said. “We typically don’t get the opportunity to focus on just doubles.”
On Saturday, play opened with everyone playing three doubles pro-sets in a round robin group. Gibson and Reich did not give up a game in their first match against Conn. College, winning 8-0. They proceeded to win the next two rounds of the round robin, defeating an open opponent and Amherst, 8-0 and 8-6 respectively. Because they won all three of their matches, they then advanced to the main draw which began in the quarterfinals.
Caroline Capute ’12 and partner Genny Loomis ’10 lost their first set against Middlebury, 8-5, but then found their momentum in their second match against Brandeis for an 8-1 win. However, Amherst, who proved itself to be nearly impossible to overcome in this tournament, earned the victory in the third match, 8-4. Ashley Parsons ’10 and co-captain Annie Hancock ’09 sandwiched a loss between two well-played wins, defeating their adversaries from Tufts and Conn. College in the first and third matches, respectively, but fell to Amherst rivals Brittany Berckes and Natasha Brown, who would go on to take first place in the tournament on Sunday. Katie Friedman ’11 and Katie Pritchard of Tufts lost their first two initial matches, but were able to take their third against a team from Brandeis 8-3.
Alotta and French went undefeated in all three of their matches, but were unable to advance because nine teams went undefeated, but only eight could proceed to the main draw. They were eliminated through a tiebreaker system based on the fact that out of the nine teams, they had lost the most total games.
Main draw play began Sunday. Gibson and Reich competed in the semifinals against Middlebury, cinching an 8-1 victory. However, their momentum was cut short when they faced Amherst’s Berckes and Brown in the finals. Berckes, whom Gibson defeated in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament last year, is a defending NCAA doubles champion. She and Brown pushed an 8-6 win over the Williams duo for a first place finish.
“Given that [Williams and Amherst] are so close competitively, matches definitely go back and forth,” Swain said. “[Gibson] and [Reich] did an excellent job of coming back from down 3-7 to 6-7, but you just can’t get that far behind and still come back to close the win consistently.”
In consolation play, the Ephs were able to go nearly undefeated, with only a team from Bowdoin defeating Freidman and Pritchard of Tufts 8-2.
The Ephs’ next match will be against Amherst at 1 p.m. on Saturday. “We always have very competitive matches against Amherst,” Swain said. “Certainly, with two matches against them every year and usually meeting up in match play at several tournaments throughout the year, we play each other quite a bit.” Despite Amherst’s demonstrated skill level last weekend, Swain is confident about the upcoming matchup.
“Each of the doubles teams really got to hone some skills, come together as a team and work out their strategies and communications,” she said. “I saw a lot of improvement, and that is what the fall season is all about.”