MEDFORD – In dramatic action that played out right next to each other on the third and fourth singles courts, the MIT women's tennis team earned a 5-3 victory over Tufts University in the 2018 NCAA Division III Championship Regional Final Sunday afternoon at Voute Courts.
Both third and fourth singles went to third-set tie-breakers and MIT senior Dora Tzeng won hers 7-3 at #4 to clinch the win for the Engineers. They earn a trip to the national quarterfinals coming up May 21 in Claremont, California.
Tufts had taken a 2-1 lead in doubles play. The Jumbos won third doubles as Kat Wiley and Zoe Miller defeated Lara Rakocevic and Kelly Zhu 8-6. The Jumbo pair was up 6-4 before MIT won the next two to tie the match. Wiley and Miller rallied to take the final two sets and give Tufts a 1-0 lead.
At second doubles, Jumbos Lauren Louks and Patricia Obeid led throughout. Tufts built a 5-2 lead before Tzeng and Sonya Das closed within 6-4. Up 7-5, the Tufts pair went on to an 8-5 win for a 2-0 Tufts advantage.
On the one doubles court, Tufts' Mina Karamercan and Otilia Popa won the first set, but MIT's Elysa Kohrs and Libby Rickeman turned it around by taking the next two. The Jumbos closed to within 4-3 and 5-4, but the Engineer duo finished strong and won the match 8-4.
MIT quickly tied the team score at 2-2 in singles as freshman Marina Zhang won her #6 match 6-0, 6-0. The Engineers then grabbed the lead as Rickeman won in three sets at #2 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.
Early dramatics were provided by Miller, the Tufts senior tri-captain, when she won her first set at #5 11-9 in a tie-breaker, fending off three set-point opportunities for her opponent. Miller then won the second set 6-3 to even the team score at 3-3.
MIT senior Elysa Kohrs came from down a set to win at #1 singles 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 giving the visitors a 4-3 advantage. That left Zheng and Tufts' Tomo Iwasaki at #4 and Kelly Zhu versus Louks at #3. Tzeng lost her first set 6-4 before rebounding 6-4 in the second. Similarly, Louks battled back from losing 6-1 in the first set to even the match with a 6-4 second-set win. Louks was down 4-1 in the third set and rallied to force a tie-breaker. Zhu was leading the third-singles tie-breaker 1-0 when Tzeng finished off the Engineers' win at #4.
Sixth-ranked Tufts, hosting a Regional for the second straight season, ended its year at 13-6. MIT, #11 nationally, moves on in the NCAA Tournament with a 19-2 mark.
Jumbos Karamercan and Otilia Popa will play at the NCAA individual championships May 24-26 in California. Karamercan is in the singles bracket and will play with Popa in the doubles draw.