Women’s Tennis Sweeps the Ivies, Earns NCAA Bid

Lindsay Graff ’15 was the first Tiger since Hilary Bartlett ’12 in 2010 to go 7-0 in the Ivy League at the top singles spot. (Office of Athletic Communications)

Lindsay Graff ’15 was the first Tiger since Hilary Bartlett ’12 in 2010 to go 7-0 in the Ivy League at the top singles spot. (Office of Athletic Communications)

In March, the women’s tennis team was 8-5 and reeling after a pair of lopsided losses, just 10 days away from its Ivy League opener. Princeton was about to lose its national ranking with the toughest part of its schedule around the corner. With the Tigers dangerously slipping towards the .500 mark, head coach Laura Granville and her staff pulled the team in for a meeting.

“They said, ‘We all know we’re really talented, and we know we’re really good, but none of the other Ivies are worried about us,’” junior Katie Goepel said. “And that really lit a fire under us. We really wanted to prove that we are the team you see now.”

That Tiger team that you see now is the team that won the Ivy League Championship outright this weekend with a perfect 7-0 conference record. Since that fire was lit, Princeton has won 10 straight, including three matches against nationally ranked opponents.

Ranked No. 58 going into last weekend’s matches, Princeton beat Cornell 6-1 on the road on Friday to clinch at least a share of the Ivy title, before returning to home court to defeat No. 37 Columbia on Sunday. The Ancient Eight title also gives Princeton an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in May, the Tigers’ first trip since 2010.  

Princeton has struggled to stay atop the Ivy standings since its last appearance in the national tournament. The year after they were eliminated by Virginia in the Round of 64, the Tigers finished third in the Ivy League on a 5-2 record. The next season Princeton again finished 5-2, and last year the Tigers dropped one more conference match to close out Ivy play at 4-3 in fourth place.

Given the circumstances, Princeton had some large hurdles to overcome. Just before the Tigers were slated to play Yale on April 4, which has had a three-year iron grip on the Ivy title, Princeton slipped out of the national rankings from its then-No. 66 position. Harvard and Yale remained on the list. The unranked Tigers were about to play the No. 52 Bulldogs, the clear favorites until Princeton won out four straight singles matches to earn the tight 4-3 victory.

Princeton was yet again the underdog in Sunday’s match against the Lions. Ranked over 20 spots higher than the Tigers in the ITA rankings, Columbia was the highest ranked opponent that Princeton has beaten in three years. If the Tigers wanted to win, they needed to jump out early on in the day with the doubles point and fight hard for it.

They fought — junior Lindsay Graff and rookie Alanna Wolff faced off against Columbia’s Bianca Sanon and Kanika Vaidya, a duo ranked No. 12 in the country and thus far undefeated in Ivy play. Princeton’s pair, however, built up a 4-2 lead that would not be broken, ending in a necessary 8-3 Tiger doubles victory. The Tigers carried that momentum over to the contentious singles matches.  They were tight until freshman Sivan Krems won the tiebreaker in her competition at the No. 4 spot, leaving Graff to clinch the match over No. 121 Vaidya and the trip to NCAA’s with it.

“People didn’t expect us to come through this Ivy season the way we did, given that we weren’t ranked near the start of it,” said Graff. “We’ve come such a long way and we’re really looking forward to keep going.”

The NCAA matchups will be revealed on April 29.

Quick Takes

The women’s lacrosse team also clinched its Ivy League championship this weekend in a 12-10 defeat of Dartmouth on Saturday. Princeton’s offense made all the difference in the game, with the Tigers winning ground balls 17 to 6 and outshooting the Big Green 25-17. The title is Princeton’s first since 2006.

After Princeton put up a stunning rally against Harvard, the Crimson edged the men’s lacrosse team in a 9-8 heartbreaker on its home turf. Princeton’s comeback from a seemingly crippling 7-1 deficit, however, was not enough to topple the Harvard defense that held senior Tom Schreiber scoreless for the first time since his rookie season and just the second time in his collegiate career.  The Tigers, who currently hold a 2-3 Ivy record, were at the mercy of the outcome of two other conference matchups and were eliminated from Ivy League tournament contention.

Baseball split its Sunday doubleheader against rival Penn, winning the first game 4-2 before being defeated 6-1. Senior Alec Keller showed huge offensive power in the first game, driving in three runs including on a solo home run in the sixth, but the Tigers could not carry the momentum from the first matchup of the day into the following game. Penn jumped out to an early 3-0 lead that the Tigers could not recover from. Princeton (12-22 overall, 7-9 Ivy League) will round out its conference schedule against Cornell next weekend.

Julia Ratcliffe broke yet another women’s track and field record this weekend. The sophomore threw 70.28 meters in the hammer throw, beating out her old distance of 69.6 meters and resetting her New Zealand national record. Ratcliffe has added 7.31 meters to her best distance since the season started.

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