Preparation pays off as women’s tennis wins fifth straight

Pictured above, Joyce Park of women's tennis returns a serve in a recent match. VC has won five straight, including its first three in conference. In those three wins, the team has lost only three total matches. Courtesy of VC Athletic Communications

The women’s tennis team is riding the wave of a dominant five-game winning streak in which they’ve dropped only eight combined matches across singles and doubles play. Ranked number 38 in the nation, the Brewers want to keep it in high gear and shoot even higher up the rankings. This past weekend, the Brewers traveled up to RPI in Troy, NY for their third straight Liberty League contest, having won the prior against Ithaca and William Smith 9-0 and 7-2 respectively. After seven straight away contests, the Brewers finally were able to host an opponent in Poughkeepsie.

Vassar started off the match strong, posting victories at all six singles positions in straight sets. Sophomore Frances Cornwall, playing at No. 1, had a strong 6-2, 6-3 win. Sarra Yekta, another sophomore, picked up a 6-4, 6-1 win at the No. 2 spot, and junior captain Tara Edwards got the win at No. 3 by a score of 6-4, 6-1. First-year Melina Stavropoulos put together a dominant performance at No. 4 singles, winning 6-1, 6-0, and senior Morgane Flournoy and sophomore Meghan Rodick won at No. 5 and No. 6 singles positions as well.

In doubles play, Cornwall and Edwards posted an 8-0 sweep at the No. 1 position, and Flournoy and junior Ashley Fair won a tight 8-7 match at the No. 3 spot. The only matchup in which RPI bested Vassar was No. 2 doubles, where Yekta and Stavropoulos fell 8-2.

With such a dominant win against RPI, it is no surprise that the team has been feeling confident  these past few weeks. In an email, Head Coach Kathy Campbell said this positivity started picking up during the team’s spring break trip out in California. There, the team matched up against some tough opponents, specifically nationally ranked Chapman, against whom the Brewers pulled out a 5-4 win. “As a group we executed a lot of things we had been focusing on, played with composure and played well under pressure,” Campbell noted. Campbell explained that the team has been working on managing their mistakes, staying composed, being encouraging of one another and taking advantage of opportunities to attack and put away well-placed shots during matches.

Edwards weighed in on how the team prepared for RPI. She was very proud of the way the team performed and explained that the team did not know exactly what to expect. Given that the Engineers did not have a lot of returners, they were difficult to scout. “Our goal was to go into every match focusing on how we were playing and to not worry about our opponents and how they were playing,” Edwards explained via email. “Also, because the match was inside when we’ve been mostly practicing outside, the team did a great job of not letting that affect us and staying positive throughout the entire match even if we didn’t feel 100 percent.”

Edwards noted that the team has adapted well to playing in different conditions. “This is something that we’ve been working on the whole season and had done a great job with the past two weeks after coming back from spring break.” To help improve as a team, Edwards explained that the group climate has been a point of emphasis. “Throughout the season, we have been focusing on our team dynamic and support while playing matches, practicing and off the court as well,” Edwards commented. “We have also been working on staying positive and as [Coach Campbell] says, ‘being comfortable in uncomfortable situations.’”

Junior Ashley Fair (pictured) teamed with senior captain Morgane Flournoy to win at No. 3 doubles against RPI, 8-7. The duo helped Vassar defeat the Engineers 8-1. Courtesy of Nick Jallat

In preparation for their upcoming match against St. Lawrence, Cornwall explained that the team is going to be keeping up the intensity this week and building off the dominant win  against RPI. “We’ll continue to work hard in practice and continue to improve our shots and shot selection,” Cornwall commented. Coach Campbell added to this practice plan, explaining that the team is going to put an emphasis on realistic game situations, “This week we’ll be working more on actual point play and moving forward in singles and doubles.”  

The Brewers have tough matches coming up, with the most difficult duel of the season coming in two weeks against Skidmore, who is currently ranked third in the country. With three Liberty League matches left in the regular season, Coach Campbell showed her appreciation for the effort that the team has put in thus far. “This team continues to work hard to expand their games and it is paying dividends,” Campbell said.

The Brewers have set very clear objectives for themselves. As Cornwall explained, “Our team goals this season are to create an even stronger team bond, continue to work hard in practice every day, and win the Liberty League championship.”

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