Women’s tennis clinches the NEWMAC championship

After falling to Williams College in the NCAA Regional Finals in the 2015-2016 season, MIT rebounded this season by revisiting the NEWMAC Championship games to face Wellesley and win the championship.

The MIT Engineers finished the season with a .917 winning percentage in NEWMAC singles and doubles play, with Lara Rakocevic ’20 highlighting season play with a 13-1 overall record. Serena Le ’20 and Rena Liu ’18 also teamed up for an 8-1 doubles record as a pair to finish.

MIT finished as the top seed with a perfect 10-0 overall record going into the NEWMAC championship games against Wellesley. What transpired was a series of matches at home that took several twists and turns, ending in a nail-biting finish that gave MIT the trophy.

To start championship day, Wellesley took the early advantage after winning two of the three doubles matches. MIT’s only doubles win came from Sonya Das ’18 and Sharlene Song ’20 as they defeated Rosanne Hu and Selina Peng from Wellesley by an 8-5 margin.

MIT had to dominate in singles play and they did. It was the No. 1 spot in singles matches that stood out as Kelly Zhu ’19, down one set, came back to take the match 6-7, 6-4, 7-6. MIT then received blowout wins from freshmen Lara Rakocevic, Serena Le ’20, and the clinching points from Sharlene Song.

The tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award was awarded to Zhu ’19, who, along with others, acknowledged the difficulties the team faced and was excited to experience her first championship along with her teammates. Rakocevic weighed in on her first NEWMAC championship experience as well:

“I was not sure what to expect. I thought it would be more chill because we’ve already played these teams, but this was a different vibe that made it more competitive.”

Coach Carol Matsuzaki also took a few moments to recognize clutch plays by the teammates, especially the freshmen coming through in “times of adversity.” The NEWMAC championship is MIT’s eighth overall and sends them to the NCAA Division III tournament.

The Engineers will resume play on March 4, 2017 when they host Brandeis University in an afternoon game, seeking to carry over momentum to continue an incredible winning streak.