Women’s tennis team destroys Grove City

The Carnegie Mellon women’s tennis team played three matches last week against California University of Pennsylvania, Washington & Lee University, and Grove City College.

Carnegie Mellon was unable to pull off upsets over California and W & L, but finished off the week with a solid victory over Grove City.

On Tuesday, the Tartans faced California, which had finished sixth in Division II last year. Against five different schools this year, California dropped only two matches. Carnegie Mellon doubled that number. In the doubles matches, the first-year team of Ashley Herrick and Kelly Hart demolished their opponents 8–2 and the first-year/junior pairing of Brooke Loar and Kelly Nakamura won 8–3.

“Ashley and I beat that team by staying positive and communicating well. We took control of the match early by making some key plays, and were able to maintain our lead from there. Ashley and I tried to stay aggressive and good things happened,” Hart said.

First-year Jennifer Chui and senior Amy Staloch, who will compete in the ITA national tournament in doubles next week, lost a close match 6–8.
Trailing 1–2 heading into the singles, California showed why it is one of the top programs and seized the momentum from Carnegie Mellon, sweeping all six singles matches to win 7–2.

“California of PA is one of the elite Division II programs in the nation. We wanted to come out and battle, which we did as we had them on the ropes after doubles,” head coach Andy Girard said. “To show such tremendous heart against such a tough team was very encouraging. The experience from this match will serve us well when we go against the top teams in Division III.”

If California was a tough task, the Tartans faced a monumental task in taking on 2006 NCAA champion W & L Saturday at home. Carnegie Mellon was undaunted and nearly gave W & L the shock of the season, losing an epic battle 4–5. Carnegie Mellon’s doubles teams, which have been unstoppable this season, claimed two victories with Staloch/Chui and Herrick/Hart prevailing 8–6 and 8–4, respectively.

In singles, sophomore Alisa Liebowitz held her nerve in a 20 point second-set tiebreak, winning 6–4, 7–6 (9). Hart, not just a doubles specialist, won a singles match 7–5, 3–6, 14–12 in which all that ultimately separated the players was a mere two points.

Lauren Caire, who beat Amy Staloch in the semifinals of the ITA regional tournament two weeks ago, continued to be the Tartans’ worst nightmare, this time doing the damage against Chui, beating her 7–6 (6), 6–4. In a rematch of the ITA regional doubles championship though, Staloch/Chui again defeated Caire and partner Katie Tabb 8–6.

“Our team is going to be very good this year, especially in doubles. We have the ability to beat lots of teams that may be ranked higher than us, which will reflect very well upon out conference,” Hart said, who won doubles matches against California, W & L, and Grove City.

The Tartans didn’t have any time to hang their heads in disappointment after W & L snatched the match from the Tartans’ hands. Later Saturday, the Tartans returned to the courts to take on Grove City. As it turned out, Grove City was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Tartans, still full of nervous energy from battling W & L, thoroughly outclassed Grove City, winning 9–0.

From the “1, 2, 3, Carnegie Mellon!” shouted by the team, Carnegie Mellon put the pressure on Grove City. The doubles team of Loar/Nakamura showed good communication and teamwork and hit up the middle to confound their opponents. Loar and Nakamura, smiling and laughing during the match, pressured their opponents by returning serve from inside the baseline and seizing the net. Liebowitz used her two-handed forehand to blast shots crosscourt, prompting a weak reply from her Grove City opponent that her partner, senior Samantha Schultz, could volley at the feet of the other Grove City player.

The women’s fall season is complete, except for Staloch and Chui, who will compete in the ITA national tournament next week.

Girard is excited for the spring season. “Our goals for the spring are to continue to improve, work hard, and prepare like champions,” he said. “If we continue to do that, things like qualifying for NCAAs and having the chance to win our conference will take care of themselves.”