Sixth Street Rivalries are always close games, especially when two top teams not only in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), but in the nation, are playing. On Thursday, the no. 2 nationally ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas (7-0 SCIAC) and no. 5 nationally ranked Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (6-1 SCIAC) women’s tennis teams faced off under the lights of Pritzlaff Field. Last year, the Sagehens beat the Athenas 5-4, but today the match went in favor of the Athenas, who won 6-3.
The three doubles matches were contested, with lots of back and forth from the get go. CMS won the no. 1 and no. 2 doubles matches and pushed through the long slog to jump out ahead 2-1 before singles.
Since the Sagehens and Athenas met in the fall ITA Regional Tournament, they had a good understanding of how to read each other’s playing styles going into the matches.
In the no. 2 match, Catherine Allen SC ’20 and Katie Kuosman CM ’17 won 8-4 over Arianna Chen PO ’19 and Caroline Casper PO ’19. Kuosman asserted herself through the match, making clutch net plays and overhead shots as Casper and Chen played with dexterity. They executed long lobs, short volleys, slices, and topspin shots with ease, but it was not enough to overtake the Athenas. Neither team served particularly well in the long, dragged out games, which were peppered with different types of rallies and good net play.
Kyla Scott HM ’18 and Maddy Shea CM ’20 lost the no. 3 doubles match versus Joy Kim PO ’19 and Grace Hruska PZ ’18. The match was pretty even until the Sagehens broke, or won a game that the Athenas were serving, to tie the match at 4-4 and then pulled away to win 8-4. Scott and Shea were out of sync, going for the same shots at the net and failing to communicate. Hruska’s good net play and Kim’s quick footwork across the baseline helped secure their win.
The no. 1 doubles match was the most exciting of all. Lindsay Brown CM ’18 and Nicole Tan CM ’20 were down 5-3 and then won five games in a row to win the match 8-6 over Emily Chen PO ’18 and Maryann Zhao PO ’18. Chen and Zhao worked masterfully together by seemingly knowing where the other was going to be at all times. All points in this match were long rallies, mostly of long groundstrokes, and required a lot of communication.
Brown played exclusively in the front court, hitting overheads and volleying well. Tan played with unlabored, quiet confidence and hit monster forehands to keep CMS in the match. In the final two games, the Athenas won most of their points off of unforced errors by Chen and Zhao, who lost the momentum they had at the beginning of the match.
In singles, the Athenas had some mixed results, but ultimately won four out of six matches to win the overall team match. Brown’s 6-3 6-2 win at no. 5 over Kim was the most straightforward of the four. Tan won the no. 2 match first set 6-4, which was pretty even and had multiple service breaks, but then bageled her opponent Zhao 6-0 to put it away. Jessie Cruz CM ’19 won against Mae Coyiuto PO ’17 6-4 0-6 and then won the match tiebreak 10-6.
At no. 3, Allen faced up against Arianna Chen PO ’20 and found herself in an early hole. Down 3-1, Allen held serve, meaning she won a point when she was serving, and then proceeded to win the first set 6-4. In the second set, Allen cruised easily to a 6-3 win with less effort than the first set. Chen hit huge forehands with really pretty long strokes and found the most success when she served and volleyed.
Casper and Scott’s no. 1 match was very evenly matched. All of Casper’s serving problems from her doubles match went away as she served well to take the first set 6-4. Scott came back with more intensity during the second set. Both of them held serve in the second set until 3-3, then Scott broke Casper’s serve to go up 4-3 and did not look back to win the set 6-3. The momentum once again flipped in Casper’s favor as she obliterated Scott in the match tiebreak 10-5.
The Athenas next face UC Irvine on Saturday, and both the Athenas and Sagehens head to the Ojai Tournament the weekend of April 29.