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Ben Goldsmith / Senior Staff Photographer

Senior Andrea Kevakian began her final season with a strong performance in the Columbia Invitational.

Women’s tennis finished the Columbia Invitational on a high note, ending its first competitive weekend of the season with four singles and two doubles titles under its belt. Seven returners and four first-years dominated the weekend’s play, clinching six of the nine championships.

In the six singles draws, four championship matches went Columbia’s way. In the other two, sophomore Jennifer Kerr lost the Brooklyn Draw 4-6, 7-5 in the final to Jessica Livianu of St. John’s, while junior Brianna Williams won the consolation final in the Westchester Draw, topping Rosemary Rouskouva of Hofstra 6-1, 6-2.

The other four singles draws showed off Columbia’s new and returning players, with first-years Caitie Sullivan and Akanksha Bhan, sophomore Paulina Ferrari, and senior captain Andrea Kevakian pulling through to claim their respective titles.

In the Manhattan Draw, Bhan, a member of Columbia’s No. 12-ranked recruiting class, dominated her opponent (Lexi Milonovich, Harvard) 6-0, 6-3 to win in straight sets. Coach Ilene Weintraub praised the new addition, saying, “Akanksha proved to be very coachable over the weekend. She was able to execute the strategy that we gave her during competition very easily.”

Kevakian, one of only two seniors on the team, saw similar success in the Queens Draw, playing teammate Yekaterina Alferova, a first-year, in the championship. Kevakian’s experience gave her the upper hand on her way to a 7-6, 6-4 victory.

Kevakian’s biggest challenge came in the semi-final, when she faced Harvard first-year Chelsea Williams. Having gained the lead with the first set, Kevakian was less successful in the second set, as Williams tied the match up. The third set was not given up easily by either player, and Kekavian won a 6-6 tie along with the match.

Ferrari came from behind to clinch the title in the Bronx Draw over the other Columbia captain, senior Sarah Hu, pulling off back-to-back victories to claim the title.

The Staten Island Draw was the stage for another Columbia first-year to shine. Caitie Sullivan also won every set, never giving her opponents a chance to knock her down. Coach Weintraub spoke highly of her play.

“[Sullivan] beat a really athletic and experienced player from Fordham in the first round,” Weintraub said. “There is no limit to what she can achieve in college tennis. She is also a lefty, which is a big advantage.”

In the A doubles draw, Kerr/Hu defeated a first-year duo of Bhan and Melissa Sakar, while sophomore Christie Wan and Kevakian grabbed the title from Ferrari and Alferova in the B doubles draw.

The sophomore-senior pairings proved successful, with Kerr redeeming her singles loss and Wan earning victory in her only play of the invitational. The pairing of first-year Sullivan and junior Renee Ren saw less success, as the two lost in the C doubles draw final.

Overall, the weekend was a strong launch pad for the team’s 2018-2019 season. The first-years proved why their recruiting class was so highly ranked, while the returners continued the excellent play that marked the team’s previous season.

Coach Weintraub attributed the team’s success to the senior leadership, specifically noting that Kevakian was still the team’s “rock,” adding that her past experience as captain was invaluable to this year’s team. She also praised the efforts of sophomores Kerr, Wan, and Ferrari over the summer in training and tournaments.

The Lions travel to Philadelphia in one week for their next tournament, the Cissie Leary Tournament at Penn. With such a positive beginning to the season, the team should expect continued success this fall.

aeshna.chandra@columbiaspectator.com | @CUSpecSports

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