By Rohan Ahluwalia
In search of their 34th straight New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) crown, and with hopes to build on last season’s undefeated record in conference play, the women’s tennis team began the 2016-17 season with a win in the opening matchup on Friday, Sept. 2, away from home against Rutgers-Newark, 9-0.
Following their victory, the Lions returned to action at home on Sunday, Sept. 4, in an interconference matchup against Wellesley College. Despite their great start just two days prior, the Lions lost in a closely contested 5-4 defeat, making their record 1-1 for the first week.
During Friday’s season-opening matchup against Rutgers-Newark, the Lions dominated their hosts in both singles and doubles competitions, with all six singles competitions being decided in straight sets.
The Lions were already heavy favorites coming into this encounter, with the women’s team recently earning the top spot in the NJAC Preseason Poll after its undefeated 6-0 season last year in conference play. That record also extended the team’s winning streak to 165 matches in all NJAC matches. With the NJAC containing seven colleges, the Lions earned all seven first-place votes.
Returning all-conference players sophomore Sneha Rangu, junior Brittany Reedman and senior Anna Prestera managed to win their matches comprehensively 6-0 in both sets. Sophomore Alyssa Baldi and senior Katie Buchbinder also managed to win their matches in straight sets, 6-0.
Sophomore Emily Szkudlarski was the only player to not win both her sets, 6-0. The sophomore instead settled for a 6-1 victory during her second set against Rutgers-Newark’s Nell Karpinski, after winning 6-0 during the first set.
In doubles competition, the Lions continued their dominance over Rutgers-Newark, winning all three matchups. Sophomore Grace Minassian and junior Maddy Stoner — both returning all-conference players, as well — combined to earn the College an 8-1 victory while Rangu partnered with fellow sophomore Baldi to gain a 8-1 victory.
Prestera and junior Danna Tsay’s 8-0 victory in their match concluded the team’s 9-0 rout of their hosts.
On Sunday, the Lions were back in action against Wellesley College. Coming into this match, Wellesley was 2-0 after earning victories over Stonehill (5-1) and Smith (8-1) on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
The match, which began with doubles, unfortunately saw the Lions unable to express the same level of dominance as they did against Rutgers-Newark. Going into singles play, the College found themselves down, 2-1.
Prestera and Tsay were the only pair to win their match-up, coming out 8-3 winners. Rangu and Baldi, as well as Minassian and Stoner, were not able to replicate that result. They lost their matches 8-6 and 8-4, respectively.
Despite the negative doubles results, the Lions were able to match up closely against Wellesley in singles play. Rangu came out on top in two sets (6-4, 6-2) along with Baldi (7-5, 6-0), while Prestera rallied after losing her first set. She secured victory in three sets (3-6, 6-2, 6-0).
Despite their valiant efforts, Reedman, Stoner and Szkudlarski could not save the Lions from their first defeat of the season.
The Lions (1-1) will return to action on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at home in a face-off against Stockton University before going off to Mahwah to take on Ramapo College.