April 17, 2007

Women’s tennis pillages Vikings in UAA sendoff

For women’s tennis, the U of C campus has been anything but “home sweet home” this season. Their first three matches this year took place at such varied locales as Bally’s, Homewood-Flossmoor, and Evergreen Courts. Finally given a chance to take on the competition in front of a friendly audience, the Maroons had no intention of wasting that shot.

Making their sole appearance of the year at the Stagg Field Courts, 24th-ranked Chicago (9–7) gave its fans a show to remember by skewering Augustana (9–10) in an 8–1 victory that was even more lopsided than the scoreboard indicated. Despite being forced to plug in first-year Addie Hill for her dual-meet debut, the South Siders easily rolled over the Vikings by racking up three clean sheets in singles and another in doubles.

Whether it was the the competition or the circumstances, the Maroons played with a competitive fire that left Augustana little chance for success. The combo of second-year Vindya Dayananda and first-year Marissa Lin (11–8) got things rolling with an absolute massacre at first doubles, scoring an 8–0 victory over first-years Tricia Crawford and Emily Doemland (2–4). Third-year Michele Parad and first-year Justine Kentla (8–8) also pulled themselves to a .500 record in style with an 8–2 triumph over fourth-years Megan DeShon and Kelsi Walters (1–1) at third.

The only tandems pairing to get close for the Vikings was that of first-years Kaitlin Kulovitz and Jenna Richardson (4–2) at second, who still fell behind Hill and second-year Anuja Parikh (1–0) at second. It was the first time those two had come together in doubles play, with Hill taking the place of fourth-year Ade Omodele-Lucien. The captain was held out for the weekend to allow her extra time to recover from a pulled leg muscle suffered against Wheaton (16–0) last Tuesday and should be back for UAAs.

“We knew we were going to rest someone because Addie hadn’t played all year,” head coach Marty Perry said. “This was a good match to do that in.”

Hill (1–2) had a rougher time of it at sixth singles, where second-year Allison Bernardi (4–0) continued to provide Augustana with a vital edge at the bottom of the lineup in a 6–0, 7–6 victory. Many of her teammates could not say the same.

With Omodele-Lucien missing, Parikh, Parad, and Kentla all moved one rung up and were seemingly unaffected by the change as Parikh (7–9) and Kentla (7–8) both rolled up 6–0, 6–0 yawners. Dayananda (15–6) did the same at second against Crawford (11–12), while the now-11–6 Parad’s season debut at fourth singles against Doemland (8–13) was closer, but still pretty far from, the cigar for the Vikings at 6–3, 6–1. Up top, Lin (15–6) kept pace with her doubles partner in a 6–1, 6–0 win over DeShon (4–14).

Such an easy win in-region will give a boost to the Maroons’ playoff chances, but they seem more likely than not to be on the outside gazing enviously in for the postseason, barring a historic showing at UAAs. Though the squad has finished fourth for two years running, it has never broken into the top three and will likely need to reach—if not win—the final to make NCAAs. There are just seven at-large berths available under the new playoff system, and even a team ranked in the top four of the Central region can’t count on anything.

Breaking that ceiling won’t be easy with two top-20 teams in their way. Second-ranked Emory (10–7, with all seven defeats coming against top-16 teams or Division I squads) should be the prohibitive favorite, while 17th-ranked Carnegie Mellon (9–7 against another very tough schedule) is expected to push the Eagles. Chicago should be seeded third, behind the Eagles and Tartans and ahead of squads like NYU (9–5) and Brandeis (8–6).

“We’re playing hard, and we’re practicing hard, and we’re confident that we can do well there if we do show up and play hard, and that’s all we can do,” Coach Perry said. “A couple of other teams are struggling, including Emory…but I’m leaning toward thinking we have to win the conference to make it into the postseason. For us to do that, we’re going to have to play our best tennis of the year. I don’t really think we’ve played up to our capabilities yet.”

The league action gets going Friday at Cleveland, with the final being played Sunday. Check out Friday’s Maroon for a full preview.