Lin, Dayananda prep for tennis NCAAs

By Sheridan Lardner

[img id=”80610″ align=”alignleft”] With months of training and competition in the books, the women’s tennis team’s elite duo will head to the NCAA tournament this weekend in a bid at national glory.

Repeating previous showings at Nationals, second-year Marissa Lin and third-year All-American Vindya Dayananda will be the only representatives from their team to head out to the courts at Gustavus Adolphus College. Lasting from Friday until Sunday, the tournament will see the two Maroon players compete in both the singles and doubles brackets, facing off against the toughest competition in the division.

“It has been a really strong year by both of them,” head coach Marty Perry said. “Any time you can make the NCAA cuts in singles, you know you have a good season. They had a really excellent year, definitely a year to be proud.”

This weekend marks the first time Lin and Dayananda will head into the National spotlight together, although they had individual showings in 2007 and 2006, respectively. Over the season, Lin compiled a 23–3 record in singles play, and keeping pace with her partner, Dayananda accumulated a 16–4 singles record.

With each athlete losing only one singles match since mid-February, the two have powered through the spring season. Their momentum has held in both singles and doubles competition, as the two have fought their way to a 20–7 record. They are now poised for big individual wins this weekend.

“It’s really great to be here with Marissa,” Dayananda said. “Coming with your doubles partner means you have each other to work with and talk with. It’s good company.”

Wrapping up their regular season schedule in late April, both players have been training intensely to prepare for this event. Coach Perry’s main goal for the pair has been to maintain their level of play in the period between UAAs and Nationals. Practices have continued under Perry, where the girls have split their time between singles and doubles play.

“We’ve been trying to get as many hours on the court as possible,” Dayananda said. “Mostly it’s been basic work, nothing special. We’ve been doing everything we can to finish stuff up and keep it at the same level.”

Hitting has been a main theme in practices, with both players working to keep their stroke in shape. While match play is a critical part of any competitive training program, it has been difficult with practices officially coming to a close. Playing with members of the men’s and women’s teams, Lin and Dayananda have kept their game in peak performance.

“Both players will be pretty rested, although their opponents will have had more matches in the last few weeks. That first day, you need to win two singles matches and then doubles right after. We played enough, hit enough, and hopefully are fresh enough to win those,” Perry said.

While Lin and Dayananda have enjoyed an impressive season within their region, NCAAs will dish out some tough opponents from the opening serve. First up for Lin is Washington-and Lee fourth-year Kelly Will. Having won the Team Championship title last year, Washington and Lee has one of the most dominant programs in the nation. Will, who dominated her championship match 6–1 and 6–2 last spring, is a leading member of this squad and a formidable face across the net for Lin.

On the other side of the bracket, Dayananda will face fourth-year Jessica Ruth of UC–Santa Cruz. Ranked as the third-best singles player in the West Conference, Ruth has lost only one match during the entire season.

After the morning singles bouts, the duo will move into the doubles brackets. Their first opponent is University of Mary Washington, represented by third-years Natalie Fugate and Rebecca Morse-Karzen. Morse-Karzen made it to the second round of last year’s doubles bracket, while Fugate boasted a 14–7 singles record, the highest on the team. If they triumph in round one, the Maroons will likely have to overcome teams from first-ranked Washington and Lee, UAA champion Emory, and Amherst on the way to the finals.

Now that training has given way to trial, both players will find themselves staring down the best of the best.

“It is a real opportunity to be out here—quite exciting, really,” Dayananda said. “All we can hope for is to play our best. No matter what happens, it’s definitely been fun.”