On the heels of the greatest season in program history, the women’s tennis team will try to establish itself as the team to beat in the Ivy League this year. Last season was filled with firsts: The Lions finished 13-5, including 6-1 in conference play, en route to the team’s first Ivy League title, which it shared with Yale. And they defeated their highest ranked opponent ever in No. 42 Kansas State and downed Harvard for just the second time in program history.
Led by seventh-year head coach Ilene Weintraub, CC ’02, the Lions return much of their championship-winning core, save for two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Nicole Bartnik. The 64th ranked player in the nation, Bartnik was undefeated in 13 conference matches over the past two seasons, becoming just the third Ivy Leaguer to be named Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons and 11th to ever garner three first-team All-Ivy recognitions.
To replace her, the team brought in four top recruits, including New York state champion Vivian Cheng and New Jersey state champion Tina Jiang. Furthermore, the Lions welcomed All-Southern Carolina Conference Player of the Year Alice Song and sophomore Brown transfer Laura Wiley, who broke the record for number of matches won by a freshman before relocating to Columbia.
In addition to the new recruits, last year’s stars will also need to step up and accept increased roles in the absence of Bartnik. The duo to pay attention to will be senior Bianca Sanon and sophomore Kanika Vaidya, who formed the 48th-ranked doubles team in the nation before earning unanimous selections to the First All-Ivy League team. Sanon finished 9-2 against conference foes and posted two big wins against top-20 opponents. Vaidya led the team with 29 total wins as a freshman.
Expecting improvement from returning players and reinforcements from recruits, the Lions begin their season this Friday at home for the Columbia Invitational.