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#56 Women's Tennis Beats #55 Harvard to Win First Ivy Title

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2011 Women's Ivy League Champions     By Sukie Punjasthitkul
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CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - The 56th-ranked Dartmouth women's tennis team won the program's first-ever Ivy League title with a 4-3 victory over 55th-ranked Harvard in front of a huge crowd of supporters at the Crimson's Murr Center courts on Saturday. The Big Green secured the win with victories from senior tri-captains Ryan Reichel (Hilton Head, S.C.) and Georgiana Smyser (Houston, Texas), sophomore Christina Danosi (New Albany, Ohio), and freshman Melissa Matsuoka (Newport Beach, Calif.) at No. 3-6 singles Smyser clinched the victory for Dartmouth with a three-set win at fifth singles. The Big Green improved to 14-8 on the season, while the Crimson fell to 9-9 overall and 4-3 in the conference. Dartmouth finished tied with 34th-ranked Yale at 6-1 in league play to end the season as co-champions.

"I couldn't be happier for the team and for our seniors: Ryan Reichel, Molly Scott, and Georgiana Smyser," said head coach Bob Dallis. "The team has
worked incredibly hard to make this day a reality. It's also extremely gratifying to win the title this year, the 50th reunion of Ron Boss '61. Ron and his family have done so much for Dartmouth and Dartmouth tennis, and we're extremely grateful that we get to practice and play matches in the Alexis Boss Tennis Center, the finest facility in the Ivy League and one of the finest in the country. The seniors and I can't wait to celebrate this victory with Ron and his wife Marge at commencement, when he and his classmates will march with the graduating class.

"It's also no coincidence that we won the Ivy League title this year after Dave Jones joined the program as assistant coach," Dallis continued. "Dave was instrumental in helping men's tennis coach emeritus Chuck Kinyon guide the men's team to two Ivy League titles. DJ's knowledge, teaching ability, and match-coaching skills are unparalleled."

Dartmouth fell behind 1-0 after dropping the doubles point to the Crimson. The Big Green's lone win came from the duo of sophomore Jeri Reichel (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) and Matsuoka at third doubles.

In singles, senior tri-captain Molly Scott (Trabuco Canyon, Calif.) fell at the top spot to the country's 65th-ranked player Holly Cao, but Danosi then put Dartmouth on the board as she cruised 6-2, 6-2 at sixth singles. The Crimson bumped the score to 3-1 when 2010 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Hideko Tachibana defeated sophomore Sarah Leonard (Norwalk, Conn.). But the momentum began to swing Dartmouth's way as Ryan Reichel downed the Crimson's top freshman recruit Natalie Blosser, 6-4, 6-3 at fourth singles, and Matsuoka beat blue-chip sophomore Kristin Norton at the third spot, 6-4, 6-4. This knotted the score at 3-3 with Smyser just having broken to go up 3-2 in the third set at fifth singles. The tenacious Texan went on to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 against Brit Hannah Morrill to clinch the match and the league title.

"It was an incredible moment," said Smyser of her win to claim the Ivy League title for the Big Green. "Timing-wise I was very nervous being the last match out there, but having the amazingly supportive Dartmouth tennis community out in full force--our families, friends, and alumni--helped a lot with my nerves and motivated me even more."

"I am beyond excited that I could help give the program its first Ivy League title," said Ryan Reichel. "I am so proud of this team. But I know that to represent all the previous years of great girls who played before us, and the wonderful spirit that characterizes Dartmouth women's tennis, is what makes this title so special. It is so much bigger than just the girls on this year's team." 

Dallis gave much of the credit for this year's success to the team's seniors. "We got tremendous leadership from the Class of 2011," he said. "In four of our 4-3 Ivy League victories, Georgie, Ryan, and Molly won the deciding matches. They showed their teammates the meaning of the term 'grace under pressure,' and did a fantastic job of continuing the Dartmouth tradition of exceptional team camaraderie and excellent sportsmanship combined with a consummate work ethic and a great sense of fun. I'm so proud of the 11's and our whole team."

Yale earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Bulldogs defeated the Big Green 5-2 at Yale on April 17 and edged Brown 4-3 in their final match. Yale's lone loss was a 6-1 defeat at Princeton, a team the Big Green beat 4-3.

Dartmouth will have to wait and see if it will receive an at-large bid. A total of 64 teams make the field with the bracket announced on Tuesday, May 3.

#56 Dartmouth def. #55 Harvard 4-3

1. #65 Cao (Harvard) def. Scott (Dartmouth): 6-2, 6-0
2. Tachibana (Harvard) def. Leonard (Dartmouth): 6-3, 6-2
3. Matsuoka (Dartmouth) def. Norton (Harvard): 6-4, 6-4
4. R. Reichel (Dartmouth) def. Blosser (Harvard): 6-4, 6-3
5. Smyser (Dartmouth) def. Morrill (Harvard): 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
6. Danosi (Dartmouth) def. Gridley (Harvard): 6-2 6-2

1. Tachibana/Norton (Harvard) def. Scott/Danosi (Dartmouth): 8-2
2. Cao/Morrill (Harvard) def. R. Reichel/Smyser (Dartmouth): 8-5
3. J. Reichel/Matsuoka (Dartmouth) def. Blosser/Lehman (Harvard): 8-5