SPORTS

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March 31, 2006

Youth and experience give new fire to women’s tennis

A commitment to teamwork led women’s tennis on the path to success. Now they have a chance to make history.

With the regular season down to its final weeks, the 19th-ranked Maroons (10–4) boosted their chances of going to the NCAA tournament with a stellar spring break performance at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Chicago posted a 4–1 mark to continue their recent hot stretch. The Maroons got off to a strong start with a 6–3 decision over Division II foe Washburn. Chicago easily handled a trio of Division III foes, shutting out Hope, Southwestern, and Carleton. The team’s only blemish of the week came at the hands of ninth-ranked Middlebury 6–3.

“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” head coach Marty Perry said.

Led by a combination of seasoned veterans and talented first-years, the regionally sixth-ranked Maroons have found success by trusting their abilities and not worrying about the tough matches that lie ahead.

“I don’t really want to comment on [the upcoming UAAs] too much,” Perry said. “We just have to keep playing like we are now.”

A key part of the Maroons’ success this season has been the successful blend of youth and experience. Behind balanced pairings of upperclassmen and first-years, the squad took 12 of 15 doubles contests during the trip. The 12th-ranked combo of first-year Vindya Dayananda and third-year Ade Omodele-Lucien swept five matches at first, while fourth-year Annie Miller teamed with first-year Preetha Rajamani at third to win two close but decisive contests.

The Maroons have earned a name for themselves in singles competition as well. Dayananda has built an impressive 13–7 record on the season, steadily moving up in the regional rankings to eighth place as of last week.

“We’re getting production out of all our spots, especially from our freshmen,” Perry said.

Miller (12–2) and first-year fourth singles Alice Williams (10–3) have excelled as well thus far. They both extended their impressive records during break, going a perfect 5–0.

After finishing last season with a 13–8 record and a fourth place finish at the UAAs, the Maroons have surpassed all preseason expectations. Their strategy of looking at every meet as it comes, which has brought them so much success thus far, will prove useful with two of the biggest tests of the season looming.

The Maroons will hit the road to take on 13th-ranked Wash U on Sunday and 18th-ranked Wheaton on Tuesday. The schedule does not get any easier after that. Chicago will trade serves against some of the top squads in the region at the Midwest Invite April 7-8 in Madison before traveling to Atlanta for the UAA championships two weeks later.