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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Season sizzling for women’s tennis team

After winning seven out of eight matches, the Grinnell Women’s Tennis Team is just about halfway through the regular season riding strong. The hot start impressed several teams and coaches, Coach Andy Hamilton ’85 included.

“If you would’ve asked me if we’d be 7-1 at this point before the season started,” Hamilton said, “I [would have] said ‘no way.’”

While Hamilton may be pleasantly surprised by the success, he knows exactly what it stems from—experience.

“We are blending a pretty experienced group of five returners with two first years,” Hamilton said. “So far, that’s been the reason we’ve had success.”

Each week it seems a new player stepped up in order to ensure a victory for the team. For instance, there was Liza Spears’ ’11 critical win in a tiebreaker to seal the 5-4 overall team victory against Cornell College. Or Captain Jill Akiyama ’10, who moved to third doubles while fighting a rib cage injury that forced her to serve underhand and still won her match with partner Kelsey Picken ’10 against Knox College and the University of Wisconsin-Steven’s Point. 

Akiyama knows these individual successes and the success of the team has been great for the womens’ mental game. 

“Starting out with seven straight wins has given everyone so much confidence,” Akiyama said. “Especially the freshmen, who haven’t played at this level before, are seeing that they can compete.”

Many of the Pioneer’s victories were close, yet Hamilton sees that as an advantage.

“We will benefit having already been in some close matches,” Hamilton said. “Being in close matches early in the season allows us to be comfortable in the inevitably close matches of the conference championship.”

The Pioneers, weakened by injuries and playing in their first weekday game of the season, lost the first match to Wartburg College by a score of 8-1 on Tuesday. Catherine Fitch ’13, who was disappointed by the loss, does not see a defeat in the team’s attitude.

“We liked the idea of being undefeated,” Fitch said. “Now that we know what it’s like to lose, we will try even harder against Coe [College].”

The squad will face some tough non-conference competition when they face the Division III nationally ranked Coe College, at 10 a.m. tomorrow Sept. 19 at home. Last year, the Kohawks defeated Grinnell 8-1. 

In Midwest Conference play, where Grinnell is a five-time defending champion, Lake Forest and Monmouth appear to be the biggest challengers. Grinnell will play Monmouth at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25 and Lake Forest at 9:30 a.m. and Illinois College 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26.  All three matches are at home.  Coach Hamilton did not downplay the importance of those two days.

“All of our focus is kind of a build up to that weekend,” Hamilton said. 

Yet, Coach Andy knows to take the season step by step. 

“We’re really pleased about how things have started off for us,” said Hamilton. “A key to the next couple weeks is to get everyone healthy and, in the mean time, we are glad to play a challenging team from the Iowa Conference this weekend.”

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