Team wins every set with key performances from freshmen and newcomers
The Pomona-Pitzer women’s tennis team has backed up their number six national ranking in a preseason NCAA Division-III poll
After starting off strong with a shutout win over 18th-ranked Mary Washington, the team continued rolling, beating conference opponents Whittier and Occidental last weekend.
“I was extremely happy with the play of our team against #18 Mary Washington on Wednesday afternoon. After a few weeks of rainouts, we opened with a tough team, and Hen tennis was ready to play,” said Coach Ann Lebedeff.
The team’s first three matches were all canceled because of rain, leaving them with a hard-hitting first outing against a very strong Mary Washington team. Not letting the weather break their stride, the Hens won all nine matches, most with ease.
“A lot of the girls were anxious to play a match after the first three got cancelled, so it was nice to finally get the season started,” said Sammy Chao PO ’14, “However, it provided us with extra time to practice, and it seems that we’ve put that time to good use.”
Whittier and Occidental proved to be no threat to the Hens’ ranking, and they coasted through the weekend with an overall record of 3-0 and an individual match record of 27-0.
“It’s a great feeling starting off the season undefeated,” said captain Ellie Shanholt PO ’12. “We ended the season last year on a high note with a lot of expectations, and it’s great to see that all the practicing is paying off so far.”
#1 singles player Jamie Solomon PZ ’13 won 6-2, 6-2 against her Whittier opponent and 6-3, 6-4 at Occidental. Kara Wang PO ’13 won at the #2 spot against Whittier 6-1, 6-2 and won #1 doubles in tandem with Solomon by a score of 8-1 on Friday and 8-2 on Saturday.
Arthi Padmanabhan PO ’14 won at the #3 spot against Whittier 6-4, 7-5 and took that momentum into Saturday’s match, winning at #2 singles 6-0, 6-1.
Occidental has recently been one of the weaker teams in the league, finishing fifth in the eight-team SCIAC conference last year. Confident of an eventual victory, Lebedeff decided to pull a few players from the starting lineup and give newcomers such as Padmanabhan experience against more advanced individual opponents.
“We started conference play against Whittier, a much improved team, and Occidental this past weekend, and many of our team members were able to get in a match,” said Lebedeff. “We have a very deep team, so the lineup may change each match as we solidify who will play in our starting lineup.”
“We have a large team this year, and every last person is capable of playing in the lineup,” remarked captain Nicole Holsted PO ’12. “We all push each other in practice, and our depth will definitely be a huge advantage down the road if we run into any problems with injuries or illnesses.”
Also receiving an opportunity on Saturday were Sammy Chao PO ’14 and Jessica Hsu PO ’13, while Ellie Shanholt PO ’12 and Alex Antonopolis PO ’14 made their starting lineup debuts. Chao only conceded two games over the weekend’s four matches, a testament to the strength of this year’s freshman class.
“The freshmen, from those playing in the lineup to those playing exhibitions, are a dream come true;” said Shanholt. “They work hard at practice and get results during matches.”
Lebedeff added that she was impressed by the toughness of all players, “especially the freshman.”
“Overall it’s been a fantastic start to the season—I don’t think anyone can argue that—but we still have a long season ahead of us,” said Chao.
As of press time, the team will have completed a match at home against #30 Vassar College. Vassar comes into the meeting with a record of 4-1, but the Sagehens are confident they can continue their unbeaten streak through this week.
“Vassar is going to come out fighting,” said Shanholt, “They are a strong team with a lot of talent, but I think we’re better. It will definitely be our toughest challenge yet, but I have faith we are ready.”
Head over to the courts this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. as the team takes on #26 UC Santa Cruz, and again tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. against #25 Trinity University (Texas). For their final match of a long weekend of tennis, the Sagehens will flock to the Pomona courts again on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. for a matchup with #19 Skidmore.