By Connor Smith
Social Media Editor
While many students at the College unwound in tropical climates over spring break, the women’s tennis team ventured to Fredericksburg, Va., to compete against three top-ranked opponents in the Blue-Grey Invitational from Friday, March 18, to Sunday, March 20.
The Lions, currently ranked No. 29 in the NCAA Division III (D-III) rankings, fell to No. 12 Johns Hopkins University in a close matchup on Friday. The women bounced back from a loss on Saturday to No. 21 Case Western by shutting out Bates College in the tournament’s finale on Sunday.
“I was really impressed with the energy and effort from the team,” head coach Scott Dicheck said. “They really ended the weekend on a high note.”
The invitational began on Friday, March 18, against the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays. Freshman Grace Minassian and sophomore Maddy Stoner combined for an 8-2 blowout on court one.
The Blue Jays fired back with an 8-4 win on court two. However, freshman Alyssa Baldi and junior Anna Prestera helped the Lions carved out an early 2-1 lead in the doubles competition with 8-3 victory of their own.
“We’re very happy with the three doubles teams right now,” Dicheck said. “All three teams are feeding off of each other in a positive way while drawing out the best skills in each other.”
The Lions’s lead was short-lived, as a dropped second-set tiebreaker tied the score at two. Senior Emma Allen responded well on court two, earning a win in straight sets (6-2, 6-4) to put the Lions ahead once again. Freshman Sneha Rangu rallied from a one-set deficit on court three to earn herself a three set victory (2-6, 6-3, 7-5).
One win away from clinching a victory, adversity struck the Lions. Johns Hopkins earned victories on courts four and five, leaving the sixth court as the match-deciding competition. The point went to Johns Hopkins in straight sets, securing a 5-4 loss for the College.
“We knew they were a very experienced team,” Dicheck said. “They’re the team that knocked us out of NCAA’s last year. To play a team of that caliber and show that we can battle with them gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”
Following their first loss of the season, the Lions found themselves another tough opponent in No. 21 Case Western Reserve University on Saturday, March 19.
Case Western swept the doubles competition, however, each matchup was closely contested. The Lions lost court one, 8-5, and courts two and three, 8-6. The singles competition went similarly, as the Lions were unable to convert crucial opportunities, dropping every court aside from Baldi on court six (6-3, 6-2).
“They played better than us today,” Dicheck said. “We didn’t win a few of the key points and it got away from us. It was really the first adversity that we’d face all season.”
Reeling from back-to-back tough losses, the women were challenged once again on Sunday, March 20, against Bates College.
The day began with a Lions sweep of the doubles competition, as Minassian and Stoner earned a 9-7 win on court one. The senior combo of Jasmine Muniz-Cadorette and Allen pulled out an 8-6 win on court two, while Prestera and Baldi won won 8-1 to complete the sweep of doubles.
One day after facing a near-sweep, the Lions flipped the script on Bates in the singles competition to complete a 9-0 shutout.
“It didn’t feel like a 9-0,” Dicheck said. “It was another nail-bitter. We were losing the first set on all top three singles. The way the team has been, they fought back and won in three sets.”
Sophomore Brittany Reedman, Allen and Rangu were the women who rallied from behind. Reedman survived a second set tiebreaker to keep her competition alive. With a third set forced, the sophomore won the clinching set, 10-7, earning a 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 10-7 victory.
Allen’s win on court two (5-7, 6-2, 6-3) clinched the College’s lone victory of the invitational. With a 5-0 lead, the next three Lions won in three sets. With the pressure of a sweep on her back, Baldi was awarded a win, as her opponent was retired.
“We’re gonna face these type of teams again in NCAA’s,” Dicheck said. “I think it gives us a sense that we can compete with these teams. We don’t play until May, so we have plenty of time to work on these things.”
According to Dicheck, the trip was certainly a successful one. “We got out of it what we wanted,” he said. “We’re excited going forward, and I think they’re all motivated to take this to the next level.”
The women’s tennis team (9-2) will return to the court on Saturday, April 2, as they visit Swarthmore College. The men’s tennis team will open their outdoor season on Tuesday, March 29, against Muhlenberg College.