Athenas Dominate Cal State L.A. For First Win

As Sarah Kukino CM ’15 and Kyla Scott HM ’18 stepped off the
court after emerging victorious from an intense battle against their opponents from California State University, Los Angeles, they knew they had just
put their team in a great position to win the Feb. 6 match.

The doubles duo had pulled ahead 6-3, but their Cal State, L.A. counterparts
mounted a furious comeback to force the tiebreaker. After another tense battle in
the tiebreaker, Kukino and Scott defeated their opponents by a score of 9-8 (7-5) and helped the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s tennis team (1-0) secure a sweep of all three doubles competitions.

“When Kyla and I were up 6-3 I think we relaxed a bit and
weren’t as aggressive, but then when we went into the tiebreaker we switched our
mentality a bit and pulled it out,” Kukino said. “Kyla and I complement each
other really well. I’m really consistent, and she’s more of a power player, so my goal is to try to keep it alive until
she makes the winner.”

CMS’ other two doubles teams also enjoyed success in the
team’s match. Caroline Ward CM ’16 and Katie Kuosman CM ’17, the number-two ranked
doubles team in the country, continued their typical dominance by defeating
their doubles opponent 8-1. Last year the pair made it all the way to the NCAA
Division III doubles finals, and earlier this fall, they won the doubles
tournament at the ITA Small College National Championships.

“Katie and I work really well together, and we have a lot of
fun and are able to mesh really well,” Ward said. “She pumps me up when I’m
down, and I can pump her up too.”

In the third doubles matchup, Lindsay Brown CM ’18 and Bria
Smith CM ’18 also defeated their opponents 8-1 behind great scrappy play.

“Lindsay is really consistent, gets to all the balls and can
go all day; she’s a great all-around player,” Kukino said. “Bria is
definitely a grinder, and she’s really in-shape, so she can also go all day. You can run her from side to side, and she’ll
get to everything and tire you out.”

The Athenas followed up their strong doubles performance
with great play in the singles matches as well.

Ward, Kuosman, Kukino, Brown and Smith all triumphed in
their match-ups to secure an overall victory for the Athenas.

Ward, who plays in the number-one singles position and number-two doubles
position with Kuosman, is looking forward to a big year in both events.

“In the
match I like to focus more on strategy than technique,” Ward said. “I like
figuring out what my opponent’s weakness is and then trying to target that, and using
my forehand against their weaker areas.”

She is able to take advantage of the fact that
she is a lefty to throw her opponents off-balance. 

“Caroline
has really big strokes and is really aggressive,” Kukino said. “No matter if
she is winning or losing, she will never pull back, and she has this confidence
about her, which is great.”

In the number-two spot,
Kuosman, who had a tremendous first-year campaign, is a threat again this year.

“Katie has
a two-handed forehand, which is unique, and she’s really athletic and quick, so
she can get to all the balls pretty easily, and she can rip lots of winners on
her forehand,” Kukino said.

The team also has a new head coach this year in David
Schwarz after previous coach Gretchen Rush returned to lead the team at her alma mater Trinity College. Led by Schwarz, the Athenas are looking forward to a successful season. 

“Dave is really organized and has a clear vision of what he
wants the program to be,” Kukino said. “He always pushes us to strive for excellence. We can be having a great day, and he’ll tell us
we’re great, but we can be better, so with him, he just keeps pushing you no
matter what.”

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