SPORTS

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April 18, 2008

Peaking women’s tennis set for conferences

Marissa Lin’s knee picked a bad time to swell, but the rest of the women’s tennis team has picked a good time to be on top of their game, with Chicago heading into its most important tournament to date.

Hobbled by second-year first singles player Lin’s absence the last two matches, the Maroons (9–7) currently carry a three-match losing streak, but according to head coach Marty Perry, close losses to UW–Whitewater, Wash U, and Wheaton have proven Chicago’s depth going into the UAA Championship this weekend.

“We’re playing better than ever,” head coach Marty Perry said. “We’ve had some injuries, but other than that, we’re playing quite well. If we’re healthy, we’ve got a chance.”

Chicago lost Lin at the April 4 match against Wash U. Running a ball down in the corner during her first doubles match, Lin landed awkwardly, reinjuring the knee that she tweaked during the fall season. She would go on to win both matches against Wash U but has been absent since.

“That’s going to be the question mark,” Perry said of Lin’s status for the UAA Championship. “She’ll play doubles first; that’ll be a good test…. We’ll know a little bit more once doubles start.”

Lin’s absence has been a gut check for the Maroons, as all the players have been forced to move up a spot to fill the gaps at first singles and first doubles. Third-year captain Vindya Dayananda has done her part to pick up the slack, notching two victories at the first singles spot.

“It’s always hard when we lose a player in the lineup since it bumps everyone a spot up,” Dayananda said. “But I think that considering the fact that we didn’t have Marissa on Tuesday against Wheaton, the girls played really well, and this only means that with Marissa playing again in the UAA tournament, we can do really well.”

If Lin makes her return Friday, the Maroons are confident that a complete and more experienced lineup will quickly shake off their losing streak.

“Everybody has been practicing hard,” Dayananda said. “We hope that we can learn from our last three matches and use it to generate some new momentum at UAAs.”

After a fourth-place finish at the UAA Championship last season, Chicago heads into the tournament as the fourth seed in a field of eight. The team’s first competition comes in the form of fifth-seeded Brandeis.

If the Maroons can defeat the Judges, they will likely take on first-seeded Emory (11–9) Saturday. Currently ranked fourth nationally, the Eagles are 20-time reigning UAA Champions, capturing the conference title every season since its creation in 1987–1988. Prior to last season, Emory had won four consecutive national titles, along with a second-place finish in 2002 and a third-place finish in 2001.

The Maroons, meanwhile, hold claim to the 30th spot in the national rankings and are looking to qualify for their second trip to the NCAA D0-III Tournament in three seasons.

“Our NCAA hopes are riding on winning conference,” Perry said. “We want to get into a match with Emory and see what we can do.”

Despite the teams’ contrast in hardware count, Perry pointed to Chicago’s depth, assuming Lin’s participation Friday, along with the determination and dedication that have provided the groundwork for their success all season, as reasons for optimism.

“I haven’t had too many teams play as hard as these girls do,” Perry said. “If we go out and play hard, if we’re not afraid to take risks, and if we’re healthy, I like our chances against Brandeis, and I like our chances at the UAA Championship.”

The championship match will be held Sunday. A first-round loss would mean the Maroons would have to play two matches Saturday competing for fifth place.

Although their emphasis is on the team title, the South Siders are no strangers to individual success at the UAA Championship. With 16 All-UAA selections in the conference’s history, Chicago presently has three former All-UAA players on its roster. Last season, Lin and Dayananda each got nods for the All-UAA first team for singles, and Dayananda was named to the second team for doubles. Dayananda also earned All-UAA second team doubles honors in 2006 along with third-year Anuja Parikh, who was first-team in singles that year as well.