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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Women’s Tennis can’t crack GAC, takes second in conference

<rleton women’s tennis team displayed a lot of heart at last weekend’s MIAC Playoffs, but the Knights came up short to Gustavus Adolphus in the finals.

“Hopefully we can give a better fight next year,” is about all Coach Luciano Battaglini could say.

Making it to the finals in itself proved more difficult than perhaps the Knights expected. In the semifinal round the team came back from behind 3-1 to defeat a squirrelly St. Olaf team, 5-3. Only two weeks prior, Carleton had defeated Olaf soundly, 8-1.

This time, the only win in doubles for the Knights came from Bridget Doyle ’13 and Anne Lombardi ’14, the No. 12 doubles team in the region.

The singles matches for the day made things a bit trickier with early wins from Doyle and Kathryn Schmidt ’12 to tie the match at 3-3. Finally, after Erin Gudul ’12 battled to win her match, the results came down to two rookies entering their third sets: Lombardi and Katherine Greenberg ’14. In the end, Greenberg beat her opponent to the finish line, dying for a Gatorade and a change of clothes after her marathon match.

The team nearly melted from exhaustion after the first match of the tournament, and to their dismay, was left with less than an hour to rest and prepare for the final match against Gustavus.

Despite what their muscles and their nerves may have been telling them, the Knights put on their game faces to prolong the battle until somebody came out a champion. While the previous week Carleton lost 7-2 to Gustavus in a lackluster display, the Knights had kicked all anxiety out of their system, or at least they did after the doubles were over.

Falling behind 3-0 from doubles play, although Schmidt and Gudul nearly won their doubles match, falling 9-7, the Knights embarked on taking the rest of the singles matches. Molly Hemes ‘14, blazing her way through the first set at 6-1, eventually became the first winner for the Knights after her opponent retired in the second set because of injury.

As the rest of the matches went on into the night, play moved indoors where Gudul would pull out the second win 6-2, 7-5. Gudul has been the most reliable singles player on the team this year with the team record of 18-2 overall and 8-0 in the conference.

With a loss from Lombardi, the score was 4-2. The results could have gone either way as all remaining matches went to third sets, including Greenberg’s second of the day. Despite all their efforts, Doyle would go on to lose 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 as Gustavus took the conference title.

 “I felt like we had chances,” said Battaglini. “It could have easily been 5-4. I give a lot of credit to Gustavus; they work very hard. We need to play a little bit smarter during the critical points in doubles.  When you play close matches, it’s always about the little things. They just were a bit better than we were.”

By winning the conference championship, Gustavus earned an automatic bid to the National Championships. Carleton was hoping for an at-large bid to the tournament, but as the saying goes, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Neither the team nor the coach is discouraged. “I think the system is the way it is,” said Battaglini. “It serves as a source of motivation for us for next year.”

Losing no seniors this year, the team can continue to work with goals in sight for next year. In the meantime, Schmidt is headed to the National tournament as an individual in singles for her third year in a row.

According to Battaglini, for Schmidt it all comes down to a “mix of luck of the draw, having a good day, and playing good points when it matters the most. Everybody is at the same level and they all have a chance. I want to maintain her level right now and go to nationals with a refreshed mind and with confidence.”

In addition, Schmidt, the No. 6 ranked singles player in the region, was honored with All-MIAC distinction in singles for the third year in a row along with the third honor with Gudul in doubles, the No. 4 team in the region. Since 2009, Schmidt is 26-1 in conference matches in both singles and doubles with Gudul. Doyle was also honored with the All-MIAC distinction for the second year in a row, as was Lombardi in her opening year.
More important than the team’s records and accolades, however, is how the team acts and how they are viewed by others. Schmidt personifies this team goal in the fact that not only does she win matches rather frequently, but that she also does it with class. The MIAC recognized this attitude by choosing her as Carleton’s representative for the 2011 All-MIAC Sportsmanship Team. Few teams can post both class and victory in their accomplishments. Carleton has.

Felicity Flesher is a member of the women’s tennis team.

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