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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Women’s tennis ends season on a high note

Clothilde Thirouin ’14 returns a backhand at practice. Photo by Shadman Asif.

The women’s tennis team defeated Augustana College 7-2 last Saturday, April 26 in Rock Island, Ill. After losing a nail-biter to Coe College the week before, the Pioneers bounced back nicely against the Central Region’s 16th-ranked Augustana and built up momentum for next week’s NCAA National Championships.

“On paper, it can be pretty inspiring because Augustana beat us 8-1 in the fall and we beat them 7-2,” said head coach Andy Hamilton ’85. “There are several factors that played into the score. But what I want everyone to know is our women played [and] hit the ball extremely well. I saw a nice advancement from the week before when we lost to Coe 5-4.”

During the fall season, Grinnell fell to Augustana 8-1. With revenge in mind, the Pioneers showed off their improvement since then and got off to a fast start against the Vikings, sweeping all three doubles contests. Domination in those three matches made a huge difference in the game.

“We cut down on our unforced errors and we started a lot stronger in our matches,” said Hanna Feldman ’14. “Against Augustana, we were really comfortable and we knew the playing style a little bit more. And I think it’s really great that [the number] one doubles have been able to come together and win against such tough teams.”

Shirlene Luk ’15 and Clothilde Thirouin ’14 are the number one doubles pair to score strong victories this season. Returning from her study abroad in the fall semester, Thirouin added a new dynamic to the team. Duos of Sadhana Athreya ’14 and Emma Macdonald ’14, and Feldman and Shanaz Daneshdoost ’17, also picked up wins last Saturday. 

“We came out playing strong,” Feldman said. “We had lost to them 8-1 in the fall and to come back to win 7-2 is amazing. Finishing up this season before Nationals and sweeping doubles [was] really great.”

Clothilde Thirouin ’14 returns a backhand at practice. Photo by Shadman Asif.
Clothilde Thirouin ’14 returns a backhand at practice. Photo by Shadman Asif.

Grinnell continued its winning form in singles competitions as Athreya, Feldman, Virginia Purcell ’17 and Macdonald triumphed in their respective singles matches.

Players also noted that the match against 15th regionally-ranked Coe College the week prior to playing Augustana also helped Grinnell return to its tennis form and better prepare for the Augustana game.

“I think we were more prepared for this time around,” Luk said. “After playing against [Coe], we buckled down more and then we played Augustana [thinking], ‘We’re going to do this.’” 

For two consecutive weeks, Luk battled regionally-ranked opponents. Although she lost both times, Luk, a ranked player herself, has grown exponentially from facing such tough opponents.

“It definitely pushes me to play better, especially if I play someone that I don’t think I can beat,” she said. “Tennis is like a chess game. You’re always trying to figure out what your opponent’s next move is while putting up your move. If I have to play someone that’s better than me, it makes me have to figure out what I have to do to beat this person.” 

According to Hamilton, Luk especially showed brilliance against Kim Sawyer of Augustana, the eighth-ranked singles player in the region. After losing the first set, Luk came back to win the second set and went to deuce in the third set. 

“Shirlene played very well in the Augustana match,” Hamilton said. “For her to lose the first set and then come back and win the second set is a testament to the fight in the girl. She’s growing her game. We’re fortunate that we have a competitive number one.”

According to Hamilton, if Luk trains during the summer on her consistency with her first serve and with the game plan, she can grow into an even more complete player.

One of the reasons Luk was able to thrive well is the presence of a strong senior class. With five solid starters, a rare feat to have such quality players in one class year, the team has “taken the conference by storm,” according to Hamilton.

“Those five seniors help Grinnell win four straight Midwest Conference Championships and numerous individual championships,” he said. “I’m having a difficult time in recruiting and replacing them. That’s how good they are.”

The senior class, along with the underclassmen under their tutelage, will look to “go out with a bang,” according to Feldman. With the way they battled competitively with Coe and handled Augustana, their goal seems very achievable.

“I’m hoping we get a win off Nationals,” Luk said. “We’ve been doing really well lately, so I’m hoping we can win the first round and get into the second round.”

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