W. tennis set back twice in Virginia

Friday, February 22, 2008

Just a few days after the so-called Potomac presidential primaries, the women’s tennis team showed up to Virginia looking to boost its own campaign. Instead, it walked away with two 5-2 losses.

Last Saturday, the Bears (1-4) fell to the Richmond Spiders (2-4). After losing the point awarded for doubles by dropping two of three pro sets, the squad was victorious in two of the six singles matches.

At No. 1 singles, Bianca Aboubakare ’11, who last year was rated a five-star recruit by TennisRecruiting.net, continued her fast start to the season with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Pamela Duran. At the No. 5 spot, the team received a three-set victory from Tanja Vucetic ’10. After losing the first set 3-6, Vucetic posted consecutive 6-4 sets for the victory.

Three-set losses by No. 3 Brett Finkelstein ’09 and No. 6 Emily Ellis ’10 proved to be the difference overall.

The netters then headed northwest to Charlottesville, Va., to take on No. 53 Virginia (4-3).

Although the Cavaliers swept the doubles matches, the Bears fought hard to come back from the 0-1 deficit.

Aboubakare defeated Amanda Rales at No. 1 singles, 7-5, 7-6. Head Coach Paul Wardlaw predicted that Aboubakare will be among the top players in the conference for years to come.

“She’s still getting her feet wet against college teams,” he said.

The squad also picked up a win from Finkelstein, who bounced back to top Maggie Yahner at No. 3 singles, 6-4, 6-3.

Finkelstein said she was excited to beat Yahner, who was ranked No. 7 in the United States Tennis Association’s 18-and-under rankings a few years ago, according to her team biography.

“(Yahner) used to be a rock star in juniors, so to be able to go out there and beat her in straight sets is a really big accomplishment for me,” Finkelstein said.

Despite its underwhelming record so far, the team is confident it can place near the top of the Ivy League, said Wardlaw and Assistant Coach Cecily Dubusker.

With a 6-1 win over St. John’s and four close losses, the coaches are confident that the talent is there.

“This is our fourth season here as coaches,” Wardlaw said. “This is our best team.”

Aboubakare said she is optimistic about the season and didn’t want to categorize the first five competitions as a “slow start.”

“We just didn’t capitalize on opportunities we had,” she said. “We just have to learn how to take advantage of chances we’re given.”

In terms of both tennis ability and team closeness, the coaches said the squad has shown a lot of potential to contend against Ivy powerhouses University of Pennsylvania and Yale.

“Against an even team, we know it’s going to be a 4-3 match,” Dubusker said.

The swing point might come from doubles play, where winning at least two out of the three contests earns a point for the team.

Wardlaw said the team has three roughly equal doubles pairs, which promises good depth. In addition to the talent on the team, he said two intangibles might put the club over the top.

“In college athletics, there’s a simple formula: effort and attitude,” Wardlaw said.

The Bears also are counting on a strong season from Sara Mansur ’09, who was an Honorable Mention to the All-Ivy team as a doubles player last year. She spent the fall semester abroad, so she still has not completely returned to form.

“It’s going to take a little more match practice and match play to get back to where I mentally was,” Mansur said.

With eight more contests before conference play begins, the Bears are confident that their record will improve as the season goes on – enough, maybe, to earn a spot on the NCAA’s championship ballot.

The team will return to action against Boston University Saturday at noon in the Pizzitola Center.