Women’s tennis batters conference opponents

Women’s tennis (14-2, 5-0 in the NESCAC) added three more victories to its now eight-match undefeated streak after 9-0 sweeps of conference rivals Colby and Bowdoin over the weekend and a 7-2 victory over Middlebury last Wednesday. The team’s last three matches furthered the Ephs’ undefeated conference record, putting them in good standing for the NESCAC tournament.

Sunday’s showdown with Colby could be considered nothing but annihilation. After a few tweaks to the team’s usual doubles lineup, co-captain Grace Baljon ’10 and her partner Nikki Reich ’11 stepped up to court one, where they didn’t drop a single game on the match, tallying an 8-0 victory for the Ephs. Taylor French ’12 and Veranika Li ’13 notched an 8-2 victory at court two, while Nancy Worley ’13 and co-captain Ashley Parsons ’11 swept their opponents 8-0 at No. 3.

The Ephs continued to dominate in singles play, as the repositioning of the lineup only highlighted the team’s strengths. Kristin Alotta ’12 moved up from her usual spot at No. 2 to play at No. 1 and only let one game go in each set for a 6-1, 6-1 result. Baljon sat out to rest and allow other players to compete. Worley followed her doubles domination with a nearly flawless performance at court two, only dropping one set at 6-1, 6-0. Caroline Capute ’12 and Parsons took their matches in straight set wins as well, in third and fourth positions, respectively. Katie Friedman ’11 and Li made their singles season debuts at courts five and six, respectively, and each hit her way to decisive wins to round out the team’s 9-0 victory for the day.

“We mixed up the lineup so that everyone on the team that was healthy got to play and get some additional match experience,” Head Coach Alison Swain said when asked about the switches.

Saturday’s match against Bowdoin proved a perfect precursor to Sunday. Williams opened doubles play up with an impressive sweep, and then continued on to dominate in singles. Aside from Reich, who struggled in her second set at court three but came back for the win in her third, each Eph beat her Polar Bear opponent in straight sets. Capute, who despite not having played as a regular on the line-up in her college debut last year has proved solid this season in various positions on the singles roster, played an impressive match at No. 6 with a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Alotta dominated her match at court three, dismissing Bowdoin’s Kellen Alberstone 6-3, 6-4. The Eph won the ITA regional singles title last fall and has won 48 straight Div. III singles matches.

The ferocity Williams showed in doubles play in their weekend matches no doubt stemmed in part from the struggle the team faced last Wednesday in its match against Middlebury. The Panthers emerged from doubles play with a 2-1 advantage and in position to take the win from the Ephs.

“I think we refocused on doubles for the Bowdoin match after going down 1-2 to Middlebury,” Swain said. “It was good to see all the girls take ownership over their doubles matches and get the early lead on Bowdoin.”

After falling to their Panther opponents in doubles, Baljon, French, Capute and Lucy Marchese ’11 went on to win their singles matches. With a combined effort from their teammates, the Ephs dispelled any thoughts of a Panther upset by sweeping singles play, earning their 7-2 win on the day.

Defeating three conference foes in one week is not an unusual feat for the Ephs, who did just that last spring season. “Last year, the girls played Amherst, Bowdoin and Colby all in one weekend,” Swain said. “They are really looking forward to this weekend. Because we are playing some of the unranked teams in the country, we will again mix up the lineup and give everyone some additional match experience before heading into post-season play.”

Whether or not the Ephs finish undefeated in conference play will be determined in this weekend’s three home matches against Hamilton, Trinity and Wesleyan on Saturday and Sunday. The matchups with Hamilton and Trinity are scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively, and the team will face Wesleyan Sunday at 3 p.m. The women will then move into NESCAC postseason play, which will kick off May 7 at Amherst.