Epstein, Li and Sullivan Honored with Team Awards

Amber Li, Elizabeth Epstein and Annie Sullivan celebrate. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Amber Li, Elizabeth Epstein and Annie Sullivan celebrate. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Rosenblum Award for MVP Goes to Epstein

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - On the heels of a second straight Ivy League championship season and the program's second NCAA Tournament match win, the Yale women's tennis team honored three players with team awards Tuesday. Junior Elizabeth Epstein (Chicago, Ill.) earned the Lisa Rosenblum Award as the team's most valuable player, freshman Amber Li (Tampa, Fla.) won the Special Contribution Award and sophomore Annie Sullivan (Deerfield, Ill.) earned the Most Improved Player Award.

Yale (20-4, 7-0 Ivy League) concluded its season this past weekend, falling at No. 5 Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Along with the Ivy League championship (the seventh in school history) and NCAA Tournament appearance (the third in school history), the Bulldogs also won their fourth straight ITA Indoor Team Championship. They rose as high as No. 18 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, an all-time best for the program in the ITA rankings. The 1978 team was No. 18 in the Women's Large-College Tennis Coaches' Poll.

This was the second straight season Epstein has received the Rosenblum Award, as last year she shared it with sophomore Blair Seideman (Brookville, N.Y.). Epstein, who has been chosen captain for 2012-13, played No. 1 singles all spring and posted a 16-7 record. That included some of the biggest wins of the season for the Bulldogs. On Jan. 28 at then-No. 21 Notre Dame in the first round of the ITA Kickoff Weekend, Epstein registered a straight-set win over All-American Kristy Frilling. That proved to be a critical point as the Bulldogs eventually scored a 4-3 upset win. Epstein delivered the decisive point in Yale's 4-3 win over then-No. 69 Princeton on Apr. 7, a victory that set the tone for the Bulldogs' run to the Ivy League title. In her singles match, against Princeton's Hilary Bartlett, Epstein rallied to win the last two sets after dropping the first set.

Epstein also won the match-clinching point in Yale's 4-0 win over Saint Mary's (Calif.) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this past Saturday at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center, completing the first NCAA shutout win in history for the Bulldogs.

In addition to her stellar singles play at No. 1, Epstein also was part of a dominant doubles team at No. 2 with Sullivan. That duo went 21-1 this spring, including 7-0 in the Ivy League. They won their last 10 matches in a row and held their opponents to two or fewer points six times in that stretch.

Epstein played a key role in Yale's ITA Indoor Team Championship this past February at Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center. She won all three of her singles matches and all three of her doubles matches in the tournament, including a comeback three-set win vs. Bartlett in the 4-2 win over Princeton for the title.

Epstein's fall season included a 5-1 singles mark. She advanced to the finals of the 2011 USTA/ITA Division I Northeast Regional Championships before falling. She was ranked No. 2 in the Northeast Region at the start of the spring season.

Epstein is in Pierson College at Yale. Prior to Yale, she attended Francis Parker School.

The Lisa Rosenblum Award is named after Lisa Rosenblum '75, who went 43-2 in singles for Yale, won four New England Intercollegiate championships, and was a part of three Ivy championships. The award winner is determined by a team vote.

The Special Contribution Award that Li won is voted on by the players and "Awarded to a special person who has contributed much more than tennis and whose presence was vital to the spirit of the women's tennis team". Li became a part of Yale's No. 1 doubles team with senior Vicky Brook (London, England) at the end of March, and that duo went on to earn first team All-Ivy League honors and a No. 84 ITA ranking. They went 6-3 overall, including a 4-2 mark in Ivy League matches.

Li also teamed with Sullivan in the fall to advance to the semifinals at both the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Women's College Invitational and the USTA/ITA Division I Northeast Regional Championships.

In singles, Li went 6-2 in the spring and advanced to the finals of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Women's College Invitational in the fall.

Li is in Morse College at Yale. Prior to Yale, she attended Plant High School.

Sullivan earned the most improved player award for her work in both singles and doubles. In addition to her 21-1 mark at No. 2 doubles with Epstein, she was a force in the Yale singles lineup. She won 13 of her final 14 singles matches -- including the last six in a row in straight sets. That included a win in the NCAA Tournament first round against Carla Lindlar of Saint Mary's (Calif.), and she also delivered a singles set win vs. Natalie Dillon in the second-round match vs. Stanford before the Cardinal clinched the victory. She was 21-5 overall in the spring, including a 10-1 mark at No. 6 singles. Her straight-set win at No. 6 in the match vs. then-No. 11 Miami on Mar. 17 provided the Bulldogs' lone point against the Hurricanes.

Sullivan is in Berkeley College at Yale. Prior to Yale, she attended Woodlands Academy.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity