Brandeis women’s tennis opened their 2017 spring season with an underdog win against Division I team Bryant University. The team won the home match 4-3.
The women began with a rocky start in doubles. The closest battle was mounted by Keren Khromchenko ’19 and Michele Lehat ’19. The two fell just short against Bryant’s Stefanie Arroyo and Briana Leonard with a close score of 7-5.
Bryant won the other two doubles matches with scores of 6-2 against Brandeis’ number-one doubles team Olivia Leavitt ’19 and Sabrina Ross Neergaard ’20, while the Brandeis’s number-two doubles team lost 6-0 to the visiting team.
In Division I rules, the team that wins the majority of the three doubles matches earns one point to the total score of the match. After Bryant took the doubles point, Brandeis entered singles play down 0-1. They would need to win four out of six singles matches to come back for the win.
The Judges did just that, proving a strong singles showing. Neergaard ’20, playing in her first dual match of her career, came out with a close three-set win against Bryant’s number-one player Marion Bouillin. The score was 5-7, 6-4, 10-3 for Brandeis’ top player.
Bryant took the lead again at the number-three spot. The visiting team won a two-set match against Khromchenko 6-4, 6-3. The win would return the lead to the Division I school at 2-1.
Haley Cohen ’18 helped out the Judges with a victory at the number-two seat in another three-set victory 6-4, 2-6, 10-6. Bryant, however, answered with a 6-2, 6-0 win against the number-five seat to take the lead once again at 2-3 for the visiting team. That would, however, be the last time Brandeis would be behind.
Leavitt secured another lead for the Judges, winning the number-four seat 6-3, 6-2, in a consistently strong performance. At 3-3, the match came down to the number-six spot, where Lehat and Leonard matched up once again.
After splitting sets, the two were in a third set that would determine the outcome of the match. After a few points of play, Lehat’s opponent, Leonard, rolled her ankle running for a ball. The injury effectively took the Bryant player out of the match and gave the overall win to the Judges.
The unprecedented Brandeis win was an improvement from last year’s face-off between the Brandeis and Bryant. In the 2016 season, the Judges lost 1-7 to the Division I team, with Khromchenko as the sole win of the match.
“Going into the match, we knew it was going to be tough, but very close. We had to play better than them in the big points. Since last season we have all worked so hard. This match showed us how far we have come. We are more fit, physically and mentally,” Leavitt.
This was the first victory over a Division I team since 2013 when the women’s team beat Holy Cross. “This was a great start to our season, but it’s only the beginning as we continue the process to reach our goals for the end of the season!” Leavitt continued.
The team is made up of only eight women: one junior, five sophomores and two first-years. The team is captained by Cohen, the only upperclassmen on the team. As a first-year, Neergaard earned UAA Athlete of the Week during the team’s fall tournament season, securing her value on the team.
The team will return to battle in California over February break to take on California Polytech, Claremont McKenna-Scripps, California Lutheran and Redlands. They will return to Brandeis on Saturday, March 11 with a home match against St. Lawrence.