Princeton, NJ – The Virginia women closed out their 2016-2017 campaign with a 2-1 finish in the Kurtz Cup Division at the 2017 WCSA National Team Championships. After falling to George Washington University in the opening round, the Cavaliers prevailed in the consolation draw, defeating Middlebury College in the semis and earning a dramatic come-from-behind 5-4 win over Williams College in the final. Virginia will conclude the season with a 17-5 record and a ranking of #13 in the nation, their best end-of-season finish in the CSA era.
Virginia and George Washington split their regular season series with the Cavaliers scoring their first win over the Colonials in well over a decade back in December and GW retaliating with a 7-2 win at their place in late January. In their postseason meeting at Princeton, GW went out to an early lead with 3-0 wins at #6 and #9 before Julia Thompson put the Cavaliers on the board with a 3-1 win at #3. Virginia looked to be holding its own in the second round, with #5 Annie Tyson out in front and #2 Tara Arya and #8 Lindsay Bralower narrowly losing their first games in tiebreaks. The Colonials, however, cranked up the pressure to sweep the second-frame matches, picking up the three wins they needed to clinch the overall match. Isabelle Ezratty scored the second win for the Cavaliers at the #7 position to make the final score 7-2 in favor of George Washington.
The loss set Virginia up for another rematch, this time against Middlebury College. In January the Cavaliers were on the right side of the bounce in every match against the Panthers and picked up a deceptively close 9-0 win. Middlebury quickly put to rest the prospect of another sweep with a 3-0 win at the #9 position (Natasha Lowitt def Carolyn Grenier). The Panthers were on the verge of pushing the lead to 2-0, as Lucy Bostwick went out to a 2-0 lead at the #6 position. But second year Madeleine Mayhew rallied from match ball down in the third to come all the way back for a 3-2 win. Meanwhile, Julia Thompson had taken the #3 point with precise, poised squash and the Cavaliers found themselves at 2-1 up and in the lead for the first time in the Kurtz Cup Division. Mayhew had set the tone on her court and teammate Annie Tyson followed with a 3-0 win to take the #5 point. Tara Arya converted at #2 to put the Cavaliers up 4-1 and fellow first year Sarah Doss clinched the win for the Cavaliers with a 3-0 win at the #4 position. Isabelle Ezratty added one for good measure and a final scoreline of 6-3 in favor of Virginia.
Virginia concluded the weekend and the season with one final rematch against Williams College, who handed the Cavaliers a 7-2 loss in mid January. The Ephs picked up where they left off in the first meeting with Virginia, sweeping all three of the first-round matches. But fourth year and co captain Lindsay Bralower dug in and held the line for the Cavaliers, taking a 3-1 win at the #8 spot. Bralower’s stand sparked a run for the Virginia side, as Tara Arya and Annie Tyson both delivered victories for the Hoos to level the score at 3-3. The Ephs, however, grappled back to a 4-3 lead with a win at the #1 position before Isabelle Ezratty completed a weekend hat trick in a clutch performance that notched the score at 4-4. In the deciding match, Williams’ Ananya Mahalingam-Dhingra put on a remarkable display of shot making. But somehow the ball kept coming back, as UVA’s Sarah Doss made one spectacular retrieval after another, ultimately outlasting Mahalingam-Dhingra in five games to lift Virginia to the 5-4 victory.
According to Virginia head coach Mark Allen “this has been a tremendous season for us and to finish with this sort of performance at Nationals is a big step forward. I’m very proud of the way the team responded after a disappointing first-round loss to GW; they stepped up to put in a better effort against Middlebury. And then, against Williams, we fell behind early but the players maintained their poise and their composure and they produced one of the best wins in this program’s history. We have been working to improve the way we respond to pressure this entire season and the work that the players put in truly paid its dividends at the perfect time.”
For fourth years and co captains Lindsay Bralower, Carolyn Grenier, and Charlotte Searle, 2017 Team Nationals caps four years of growth as both individual players and as a team. The trio started at UVA in the same year that coach Allen joined the team. That year the team entered the season ranked #26 in the nation; they leave ranked #13. According to Bralower, “we thought we’d killed it that first year when we broke into the top 25 and won the Epps Cup Division. Nevertheless, George Washington and Williams still seemed way out of our league – but here we are in our final year beating teams that just three years ago seemed way beyond our capabilities. It’s been an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding experience to be part of this improvement and I look forward to seeing it continue over the years to come.“