W. tennis smashes BU

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Women’s tennis Head Coach Paul Wardlaw isn’t used to missing competitions.

The family wedding he attended last weekend? His first absence from a contest in his 23 years of coaching.

Equipped only with text-messaging capabilities, he kept in frequent touch with Assistant Coach Cecily Dubusker throughout the Saturday afternoon matches. Eventually, he received the good news: Brown defeated Boston University at home, 6-1.

After losing two out of the three doubles pro sets and the doubles point, the Bears had their work cut out for them against the Terriers (3-2). But after BU’s first bark, the America East Conference team showed little bite.

Brown (2-4) cruised to its second 6-1 victory of the year after winning all six singles matches. Undaunted by the 1-0 deficit at the start of singles play, Bruno smashed out strong victories against BU.

At No. 1 singles, Bianca Aboubakare ’11 won in convincing fashion over BU’s Francine Whu, 6-1, 6-3. Aboubakare showed her progress this season by handily topping the opponent who beat her in three sets last September.

“I just focused when it counted,” she said. “I feel like I’ve matured a lot mentally.”

No. 2 Sara Mansur’s ’09 come-from-behind victory over Vanessa Steiner didn’t come as quickly. After losing the first set 6-3 and trailing 4-3 in the second set, Mansur turned the match around. She won three games in a row to take the second set, 6-4.

In the third set, the two women traded holds in the first five games. Up 3-2, Mansur broke Steiner’s serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. But Steiner came right back with a break and a hold of her own to make it 4-4. Not to be outdone, though, Mansur held at 4-4 and broke at 5-4 to capture the set.

Mansur said the shift in the match occurred after she recognized a simple way to put a lot of pressure on her opponent.

“Basically, don’t hit anything toward her forehand,” she said.

Brett Finkelstein ’09 fought through her own three-set battle. Faced with a bad headache and a tough opponent, the No. 3 seed won the first set 6-4 before losing the first five games of the second set en route to a 6-1 defeat. As the headache persisted and the match score was tied at 1-1, she tried not to show her opponent she was weak.

“I think she thought she was going to win the third set,” Finkelstein said. “I think I caught her by surprise.”

Down 4-3 in the final set, Finkelstein took back the momentum and stepped up her play for a 6-4 victory.

The No. 4 to 6 seeds took their matches rather handily, with quick straight-set wins. No. 4 Tanja Vucetic ’10 breezed to a 6-1, 6-2 win. No. 5 Marisa Schonfeld ’11 won 6-1, 6-3, and No. 6 Emily Ellis ’10 took her match, 6-2, 6-3.

Dubusker encouraged the team not to get discouraged in its singles matches after being in an 1-0 hole after doubles play. She said the team showed strong singles play and a good mind-set in the week’s practices.

“I knew that we were playing with more confidence than we had” in the past, Dubusker said.

Winning both three-set matches as well as coming back from an initial deficit are good signs of the team’s emotional strength. Dubusker noted that the Bears players were more supportive of each other – vocally and physically – than were BU’s players.

“We’re doing the team stuff really well,” she said.

But it’s not time for the team to get complacent, as the squad has a busy weekend coming up. The team will play in two competitions on Saturday and one on Sunday. All three contests will be played at the Pizzitola Center.

On Saturday, Bruno will play Rhode Island (1-0) at 9 a.m., followed by Bucknell (1-4) at 1 p.m. Brown will play Syracuse (6-6) on Sunday at 11 a.m., a matchup Dubusker said should be an “interesting test.”

After missing a dominant victory last weekend, you can count on Wardlaw to be on the courts this weekend. It might be another 23 years before he’s elsewhere during a competition.