PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Tuesday, the Yale women's tennis team had an amazing day at the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships, finishing 6-1 with a doubles pair and two of three singles players still in contention as Yale players knocked off higher-ranked opponents with every victory.
In singles, three Bulldogs performed well enough to make it to the qualifying section. Senior captain Elizabeth Epstein, ranked No. 85 nationally, was initially slotted into the qualifying round, and she was joined later by junior Blair Seideman and sophomore Hanna Yu, both of whom won three matches in prequalifying to advance to the qualifying round. Their work was far from done, though, as they would need three more victories to advance to the main draw.
Epstein, playing against Tennessee's Kata Szekely in the first round, came away with a huge win. Szekely came into the year ranked No. 28 nationally by the ITA, making her one of the toughest opponents Epstein will see all year. However, Epstein refused to be cowed by her highly ranked opponent, and, despite dropping the first set 6-3, came back strong with a 7-6 (3) win in the second set before laying it all on the line in a 6-4 third set. In her next matchup, Epstein was faced with USC's No. 54 Kaitlyn Christian. Against yet another highly ranked opponent, Epstein went ahead early, swarming out to a 3-1 lead in the first set, which she would win 6-3, and then 3-0 in the second, which she would take 6-2. Epstein's next showdown comes against Baylor's Ema Burgic, with a spot in the main draw on the line. Burgic made it to California as a prequalifier, but has since knocked off the nation's Nos. 35 and 55 players en route to five consecutive victories.
Yu started off with a matchup against San Diego's Anna Depenau, another highly regarded player that came in at No. 75 in the ITA rankings. Yu traded off at the Nos. 2 and 3 spots with Seideman last season in Yale's team play. In the match, Yu came out strong and never looked back. She held leads of 2-1 and 4-2 in the first set, which she won 6-2, and in the second set, went up 4-1 to begin. Depenau would claw her way back to make the score 4-3, but the rest was all Yu, finishing out with a 6-3 win that vaulted her into the second round and Texas A&M's Nazari Urbina, ranked No. 38 by the ITA. As was the trend for Yale on the day though, high rankings meant nothing, as Yu emerged with a 6-4, 6-2 straight-set victory. In the third and final match of qualifying, Yu will play UNLV's Aleksandra Josifoska for the right to play in the main draw. Josifoska is ranked No. 89, and had to knock off No. 53 Lauren Herring to make it to her match with Yu.
Finally, Seideman was matched up with UCLA's Skylar Morton, the nation's No. 70 player. Seideman last season played at Nos. 2 and 3 in singles for the Bulldogs, meaning matchups with players of Morton's caliber have been rare in her career. However, following the rest of her teammates, Seideman played a stellar match. Morton grabbed the first set 6-3, but Seideman battled back to grab the second set by a score of 7-5. In the third, it was all Seideman, who broke Morton and held serve to win 6-0. In the second round, though, Virginia's Julia Elbaba was too much. Elbaba had already beaten No. 41 Katie Le, and her day only got better as she topped Seideman 6-4, 6-2.
In doubles, the No. 40 ranked duo of Epstein and junior Annie Sullivan improved their career record to 22-1 with an 8-6 victory against the Miami pairing of Melissa Bolivar and Lina Lileikite, ranked No. 38. The match could not have been much closer, as the pairs stayed even all the way up until 5-5, where the Bulldogs earned a huge break, coming back from a 0-40 deficit to grab a 6-5 lead with the serve. Bolivar and Lileikite still had a shot, as a break at 6-5 or 7-6 would have put them back in the match, but Epstein and Sullivan proved to be too much, gaining entrance to a second-round matchup with DePaul's Patricia Fargas and Jasmin Kling. The DePaul match could prove to be a tough one, as Kling and Fargas knocked off the nation's No. 25 team in their first victory, topping Kansas' Monica Pezzotti and Dylan Windom 8-6.
Additional information for fans can be found below:
Elizabeth Epstein (Yale) def. Kata Szekely (Tennessee): 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4
Elizabeth Epstein (Yale) def. Kaitlyn Christian (USC): 6-3, 6-2
Hanna Yu (Yale) def. Anna Depenau (San Diego): 6-2, 6-3
Hanna Yu (Yale) def. Nazari Urbina (Texas A&M): 6-4, 6-2
Blair Seideman (Yale) def. Skylar Morton (UCLA): 3-6, 7-5, 6-0
Julia Elbaba (Virginia) def. Blair Seideman (Yale): 6-4, 6-2
Epstein/Sullivan (Yale) def. Bolivar/Lileikite: 8-6