Women’s tennis back to form in win over Carthage

By Sheridan Lardner

Returning veterans dominated the court from singles and doubles brackets for women’s tennis Saturday, closing the books on the winter season in true Chicago style.

Living up to its ranking of 23rd in the nation, the team decisively defeated Carthage College (6–6) with a 6–3 victory on the Lady Red’s home turf in Kenosha, WI. Winning four of the six singles matches and two of the three doubles, the Maroons showed a mastery of the court that surpassed their play all year. It was a high note to a mixed quarter and raised the group’s record to a strong 6–3.

“The team played the best they have all year,” head coach Marty Perry said. “They played some good tennis in the fall, but now they are playing even better.”

Opening with a bold statement, the Maroons immediately seized a win in the first doubles slots. Narrowly outmatching their opponents, the powerful duo of second-year Marissa Lin and third-year Vindya Dayananda beat their regional-finalist competition 9–8. Although second-year Gina Klein and third-year Taylor Gustafson put up a fight worthy of their finalist position, they were unable to best the veteran Chicago players.

“Our biggest win was definitely in doubles. That match came down right to the tie breaker,” Perry said. “These two work very well together on the baseline, close well on the net, and take advantage of mid court opportunities.”

Stealing all the momentum in its first win, Chicago flattened Carthage in the second slot, with the pair of first-year Chrissy Hu and second-year Justine Kentla claiming the match. Never letting their opponents stop for a breath, the Maroon couple sent first-year Katie Hornick and second-year Beth Kaufman home with a resounding 8–1 loss.

A win in the doubles bracket set the tone for the rest of the day. Pressing its initial advantage, Chicago advanced unstoppably through almost all of the singles matches. Not content with their doubles win, Lin and Dayananda continued their dominance against their individual opponents. In the first slot, Lin grabbed a quick win over Klein in straight sets 6–4, 6–2. Routing Kaufman 6–1, 6–3, Dayananda matched her teammate’s performance to virtually ensure a Maroons victory.

“Carthage has good depth, but we have some strong players. The top of our roster is very strong, and the level of play and talent we will need is all there,” Perry said.

Not to be outdone, the doubles team of Hu and Kentla split to take big individual wins at third and fourth singles slots. Returning from her initial defeat, Gustafson was unable to best Hu in singles, falling in an easy 6–2, 6–0. Matching her teammates score, Kentla firmly beat second-year Ashley Morgan.

Although the team’s veterans carried the South Siders to victory, Saturday was not all about the top of the roster. In one of the most harrowing matches of the year, first-year Cristina Simpetru could not eke out the win against Carthage rookie Kristina Roglin in the sixth slot. With neither player able to claim an early advantage, the match came down to the wire, with Simpetru barely losing 3–6, 6–2, 1–0 (10–6). Despite the win, it was not enough to lift Carthage from its hole, with the Maroons having already cemented its victory.

“The team did what they had to do and competed hard,” Perry said. “Cristina almost pulled it out at sixth. All in all, a good performance up and down the entire lineup.”

In a year with one of the hardest schedules to date, the squad’s ability to maintain a winning season has been impressive. With no fourth-years at the top of the team, Chicago has relied on leadership and talent from across the roster. Already ranked 23rd in the nation, the group looks to advance this position as the season progresses.

“Hopefully we will remain ranked, but our conference is more important. We need to play with the same attitude that we are playing with now, because our conference is a tough one,” Perry said.

Standing in the path to the conference gold is a number of nationally ranked teams. Toward the top of the list, Carnegie holds the sixth slot, with Emory even higher up at fourth. These groups promise to provide a great challenge to Chicago, as the season now kicks into high gear in the spring.

“We have just as much chance to win the conference this year as in years past,” Perry said. “As long as we play together as a team, we can win. Our top players are big, and our goal is to win the conference.”