With a new coach and a number of new contributors, the men's and women's tennis teams have had a season of big improvements. Stressing intelligent, consistent play, both teams now look to their final weekend of the regular season before they compete in UAA championships.
Women's tennis has probably taken the biggest strides of any Maroon sport towards being a serious program. Last year, they only competed in six matches, going 2-4 overall. New head coach Marty Perry made a concerted effort to schedule more matches, and they now stand at 9-9 after the past week of action.
"The women's team has improved so much this season with the help of our new coaches. [The program] has a bright future especially since all but one of the lady tennies will return next year," said fourth-year Sara Birkemeier, the only graduating player on the team.
The Maroons shocked some key opponents this past weekend. On Friday, Chicago hosted Aquinas College, which came in with a 9-3 record. First-year Ade Omodele-Lucien and second-year Annie Miller each added singles victories and teamed up for a doubles win.
On Saturday, they added victories against Centre (6-8) and Rose-Hulman (2-16) by a combined score of 17-1. Five of the team's six singles players finished with at least two wins in the three matches.
The team's three match winning streak came to an end on Wednesday against Olivet Nazarene in a 5-4 loss. Despite the loss, the match had some highlights, including new doubles partners Birkemeier and second-year Liz Saydah who won their match.
"Everyone played hard and put so much energy into the match [against Olivet]. I think general exhaustion caught up with us a little bit though since we have been negotiating a new spring schedule," Birkemeier said. "Still, we played awesome even under those circumstances. UAAs are coming up and we have a light playing schedule before that so [fatigue] won't be a factor at UAAs."
The men's team has also made huge strides this year, despite their 5-12 record at this point. Newcomers Vivek Venkataraman (4-5 at first-singles) and Stephane Levy (11-5 in singles play) have grown over the season into important contributors.
Against Olivet-Nazarene men's squad (9-7) on Wednesday, the singles score ended even. Third-year Jacob Reckess won a close match on two tiebreakers 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5). Levy also added a victory 6-4, 7-5. The deciding factor in the match, however, was the three doubles losses for an overall final of 6-3.
Tennis has its last season matches on Sunday, before preparing for UAA championships beginning next Friday in Rochester, New York.