Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Women’s Tennis faces tough competition in S.C.

<t the mountain we conquer, but ourselves,” Sir Edmund Hillary once mused. The Lady Knights tennis team is simultaneously conquering mountains and learning this lesson as they return from spring break a stronger team ready to take on the now snowless Minnesota slopes and the game.

For the last five years, head women’s tennis coach Luciano Battaglini has seemingly pampered his players by taking the team to the sunny shores of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The players had more on their mind besides suntans and seafood, however, as they took on some of the top teams in the nation and their fiercest competition of the year.

Going into spring break, Carleton was 6-1 on the season with only one loss to Division I powerhouse, the University of Minnesota. The Knights were nationally ranked at #21 and had on their side top returners in three-time All-American Kathryn Schmidt ’12, three-time All-MIAC Erin Gudul ’12, two-time All-MIAC Bridget Doyle ’13, and All-MIAC Anne Lombardi ’14. These players and the rest of the Lady Knights preened themselves in the first break match against Allegheny, powerfully winning 9-0.

The following matches proved more difficult as the team faced hard-hitting, nationally ranked opponents. First up was #6 Chicago, marking the Knights’ first loss to a Division III team this season at 0-9. Despite the team bagel, three matches went to tiebreaks including #17 regionally ranked Doyle who battled to a third set tiebreaker 10-12 after losing last year to the same opponent 6-0, 6-0.

 Captain Schmidt remarked on how the team can improve on these close matches saying the key is in “really focusing during those big points and learning how to play the closer points better, learning how to stay mentally tough and know what you’ve got to do during those big points—figure out what has been working the entire match and implement those strategies and psych your opponent out when you can.”

Regionally ranked at #3 in singles, Schmidt was likewise unlucky with tiebreakers, as seen in the following match against Division II team Erskine as the team lost 3-6 with the sole wins coming from sophomores Lombardi and Molly Hemes ’14.  Hemes pulled out her win a tiebreaker while Gudul forced a third tiebreaker, this time for a loss. Schmidt added, “You’ve got to do all the little things right, like getting your first serve in or making sure you really focus on getting the first ball in the court. I think that can make a world of difference. You obviously have to do the work to get to the tiebreaker and figure out what you have to do to pull out ten of those points.”

Coach Battaglini likewise noted the importance of the minutiae during spring break saying, “One of the things that made a huge difference in the outcome was they played a little bit better than us when it counted the most.” Carleton’s opponents continued to top the Knights in the big points against the team’s final match against the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Fitting for a match against the aptly named Whitewater, the first downpour of the week forced the match indoors where the Knights lost 2-5 with two matches left uncompleted. Schmidt again was brought to a third set in her singles match as well as a close win in doubles with partner Doyle at 9-7. Doyle seemed headed for a win at singles when the match was called at 6-4, 4-1. Meanwhile Lombardi pulled out the second win for the Knights in singles to finish off a fruitful 3-1 week in singles.

“I hope that they can understand that playing tough matches is what it should all be about,” Battaglini said to sum up the Knights’ takeaway, “one of the biggest mysteries in athletics is how you can feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations and learn how to deal with tight situations and even look for these moments instead of dreading them. A lot of athletes don’t know how to deal with their emotions, but the best players in any type of sport cherish a close match; they want that because it’s exciting for them.”
Either because of excitement or sheer skill, the Knights transformed this energy into two more wins after spring break as they defeated MIAC competitor Concordia College 9-0 and previously undefeated (18-0 on the season) and perhaps unsuspecting team Grinnell College 9-0 last weekend. These wins put Carleton at 9-4 on the season.Coach Battaglini said of the team’s success this year, “It always comes from the fundamentals of having a nice camaraderie within the team. This year, more than ever, it seems that people understand each other a little better, respect each other a little better, understand their roles within the team much better than before. There was a kind of consensus that the team wants to put in a little more time than before. People are progressing as the goals become higher.”

He also noted that along with practicing harder on the court, the Knights have improved infinitely with the addition of an intense new strength and conditioning program, saying, “It is a work in progress and we’re not nearly at the top of the mount yet; we’re climbing it little by little, making sure we’re getting better each month, each year.”

The Lady Knights continue on the path to the championship summit with the Midwest Invitational this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin playing a fresh challenge at Kenyon College on Friday at 12:30 pm and seeking a rematch at 4:30 against #10 Depauw University, the team the Knights upset last year 5-4. The tournament continues through Saturday with two more TBA matches.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *