It was, at once, a day that captured a snapshot of where the women’s tennis program has been and what it will become.
After a ceremony honoring outgoing seniors, strong play from the Colonials’ freshmen was instrumental in capturing a 4-3 victory over Atlantic-10 foe Fordham Saturday afternoon.
Before the competition got underway, seniors Mimi Hamling and Dorota Lysienia received bouquets of flowers and framed photographs of their time in Colonial uniforms. Lysienia said a touching and tearful thank you to her family, dedicating her play to her father. Hamling opted to sing the National Anthem in place of a speech, which proved to be a crowd pleaser.
“Dorota and Mimi have just been a fabulous presence for us over the last four years,” head coach Dawn Buth said. “I was telling them after our presentation that it’s probably the best introduction presentation that we’ve ever had in my almost a decade here, it was just really special.”
After the emotional senior day festivities, competition began with doubles play. In the No. 1 match, Hamling and junior Leah Pascarella fell to Fordham’s Sarah Ali and Amy Simidian, 8-3. In the No. 2 spot, GW freshman Christina Carpenter and Lysienia bested Bella Genkina and Anika Novacek 8-4.
With the dual competition tied, the doubles point was decided by the No. 3 freshman pair of Stephanie Wei and Egle Jakuciunaite, who edged their opponents 9-8 (7-4) in a tiebreaker to put the Colonials up 1-0. The win ultimately came from a carefully placed shot by Wei, who caught Fordham’s Angelika Dabu and Julie Leong off-guard by breaking the rhythm of a rally of long strokes with a drop shot that landed just a few feet in front of the net.
“I felt like I just had to get every ball back, and it didn’t matter if it landed short. It didn’t matter where it landed. I just wanted to get every single ball back,” Wei said.
That mindset became the defining point of the match.
The Colonials would go on to split the singles play 3-3 with the Rams, making their doubles point the reason they clinched the overall victory. Hamling posted a convincing 6-3, 6-1 No. 4 victory over Genkina in her last dual match as a Colonial, to put GW up 2-0. Buth cited winning the doubles point as a large factor in the outcome of the contest, but also a reason why the Colonials struggled at first in singles play.
“[Doubles] played a huge role in the final score for us today. I think it was a little unusual for the girls to win the doubles point, so I think they actually came out a little flat in the singles,” Buth said. “We started down in several of the singles matches, but it was a real testament to the way they competed to be able to come back.”
The Rams tied the score with victories in the No. 5 and No. 6 matches. Leong defeated Jakuciunaite 6-2, 6-2 and Novacek bested Carpenter 6-1, 6-1, respectively. Each of the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 singles matches played to three sets. The Colonials lost the first set in two of the three contests, but showed admirable mental toughness and battled back against the Rams.
No. 1 Pascarella could not finish off her opponent and fell 6-4, 4-6, 4-6 to Simidian. Freshman No. 2 Lana Robins, however, found her groove after dropping her first set 5-7, and bounced back to best Fordham’s Ali by winning the final two sets 6-2, 6-2.
Wei wound up as the deciding factor once again and gave the Colonials the final edge in the five-hour match by topping Fordham’s Dabu 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) in the No. 3 spot. She had been down 0-3 in the second set before she launched into her comeback victory to win the final two sets.
“I was going down really quickly and it wasn’t going well, and then I stopped and stopped trying to hit every ball at mach-5,000,” Wei said. “It really helped me in the end. I kept trying to go for too much, so I just had to stick with brushing and height and placement.”
She received some extra encouragement from a group of men’s water polo players who stopped by the Mount Vernon Tennis Center after a pick-up soccer game, singing the fight song to cheer Wei on.
“The water polo team was awesome today. They definitely made a big difference,” Buth said.
While Wei seemed rejuvenated by the crowd’s enthusiasm, her opponent seemed to tire and lobbed slow, arcing shots that Wei returned with power on her way to seal the win for the Colonials, who play next in the Atlantic 10 championships next weekend.
“By coming back and really competing, they put themselves in a great place for A-10’s where they’ve learned how to fight and compete and be in pressure situations before a really dynamic part of the season. So it was really as good a match as we could have hoped for today,” Buth said.