There is little doubt that women’s tennis, having won its first Ivy title in program history last spring, should once again be a top contender. And with the team’s new talent emerging on the court, the Lions seem poised for a repeat performance.
Though 2013 Ivy League Player of the Year Nicole Bartnik, CC ’13, graduated in the spring, junior Laura Wiley, a transfer from Brown, and freshmen Vivian Cheng, Tina Jiang, and Alice Song bring a wealth of credentials to the Light Blue program.
If there were any question about how comfortable these newcomers are in their roles, most of it was erased last weekend when Cheng and Jiang went undefeated at the Columbia Invitational.
“For my first match, I was very nervous,” Cheng said. “Then I just got over that hump and started to feel better about things.”
In spite of the strong start by the freshmen, head coach Ilene Weintraub, CC ’02, knows that each player has plenty of room to hone her skills.
“There is a lot of developing that they want to do and a lot of training that we have to do with them,” Weintraub said. “It’s great that Viv and TJ [Jiang] were able to go undefeated in singles, but more importantly, we get to see what they need to do to really reach their potential.”
Wiley, who transferred to Columbia from Ivy rival Brown, is looking forward to being part of a competitive program.
“I was really happy with the academic side of things at Brown, but I wasn’t happy with where tennis was taking me,” Wiley said. “Brown’s program seemed to be getting kind of stagnant and I knew Columbia had a well-respected program among the Ivies.”
Even though the players are new, their aspirations match those reached by last year’s squad.
“The Ivies are the goal,” Song said.
And after tying for the top spot with Yale, the Lions want the title all to themselves to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs went to NCAAs in the spring because they beat the Light Blue during conference play.
“We want to win the Ivies outright this year because we were co-champions last year with Yale,” Weintraub said. “It makes the players very hungry. They are all very motivated and have been working hard.”
The additions of Cheng, Jiang, Song, and Wiley may just be what the Lions need to grab the top spot.
“They are coming in with a lot of experience—Laura having played in the Ivy League,” Weintraub said. “TJ played at a very high level before, she was nationally very highly ranked. And Viv and Alice are both lefties. So they all add a lot of diversity to the team.”
The Lions will be in action this weekend when they head to the Cissie Leary Invitational in Philadelphia.