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The Scarlet & Black

Luk leads women’s tennis in MWC tourney

Shirlene Luk ’15 claimed her fifth Midwest Conference crown of her collegiate career. Photo by John Brady.

In a tennis team filled with youth and inexperience, the squad’s veteran leader Shirlene Luk ’15 shined in the Midwest Conference Tournament held in Madison, Wis. on Oct. 18 and 19. She claimed the lone Conference title for Grinnell at the number one singles, clinching her fifth Conference title in her collegiate career.

Luk swept Tamar Norville of Illinois College in the quarterfinals, defeated Elizabeth Manlick of St. Norbert College 6-0, 6-3 in the next round and beat Abigail Pellett of Carroll University 6-2, 6-4 in the finals. Having lost to Manlick and Pellett in the regular season matchups, Luk got revenge on the biggest stage.

“Abigail had a three-setter [previous round] and she was worn down by that point and it gave me more confidence in my game,” Luk said. “I just knew that as long as I played my game and made sure I didn’t make mistakes that I would come out.”

Playing number one singles for two consecutive years, Luk has carried the team from the start of the season. Her performance and poise in the Conference tournament demonstrates her positive influence on her teammates.

“In terms of carrying the load of the team as the number one player, she’s been important,” said head coach Andy Hamilton ’85. “Her ability to understand the moment and the tournament ultimately was what gave her the crown and the execution of the great game plan. Shirlene made a lot fewer errors in her hitting and she really caused Abigail to make a lot of errors and that was the real difference in the match.”

Shirlene Luk ’15 claimed her fifth Midwest Conference crown of her collegiate career. Photo by John Brady.
Shirlene Luk ’15 claimed her fifth Midwest Conference crown of her collegiate career. Photo by John Brady.

And the coach could not have asked for anything more from her.

“In some ways, she showed incredible maturity about her approach on the weekend,” Hamilton said. “I’m really proud of her. I’m proud for Grinnell that we have the top player in the Midwest Conference.”

Anushka Joshi ’18 was another standout player, losing a match in the final round at the number four singles. After winning the first set, she fell to a much more experienced opponent.

“Since I’m a first-year, I didn’t really know what to expect because I’ve never done this before,” she said. “I played against a fourth-year, who played number one singles for the last two years. As soon as I got off court, everyone said, ‘You have the next three years. Don’t worry.’”

Hannah Cook ’18, Julia Rumley ’16 and Minna Montgomery ’16 all reached the semifinals at the number three, five and six singles divisions, respectively, while Virginia Purcell ’17 advanced to the quarterfinals. Stepping in for injured Brianna Wilson ’17 late in the season, Montgomery has been a pleasant surprise to the team.

“Minna won three matches for us at home the final weekend, including big matches against Lake Forest and Carroll,” Hamilton said. “What was extraordinary about Minna’s two weeks playing in the lineup was her comfort level. She’s just poised and comfortable.”

In the doubles department, teams of Luk and Purcell, Joshi and Cook and Rumley and Sydney Banach ’18 all advanced to the semifinals. Although no duos clinched a Conference title, the teamwork of the young players showed much promise for the team’s future.

“[Hannah and I] both filled in each other’s holes. We worked well with each other,” Joshi said. “I’m good at the net … [so] I could pouch. She would hit the shots necessary for me to get those volleys.”

Despite the team’s youth, lack of experience and dealing with unexpected injuries, Hamilton has been pleased with the squad’s performance in the fall season.

“Based on severe holes in our lineup due to graduation loss and people moving into lineup with less experience, and unforeseeable situation of losing Shanaz [Daneshdoost ’17], and then three weeks later losing Brianna, it was a completely different year,” he said. “In three very important meets, the one versus Lawrence, at home versus Lake Forest and … Carroll, they really brought their level up and rose to the top in those matches. That’s a real credit to the characters of our team.”

Luk, whose absence will be a big one to fill after she graduates this year, agrees and has faith in her younger teammates to continue the program’s tradition of excellence.

“They were very poised. They didn’t freak out,” Luk said. “They played their heart out and that’s what I appreciated it. As long as you play your heart out, you can’t do anything else.”

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