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Women’s tennis finds redemption against Lake Forest College

The women’s tennis team redeemed themselves against Lake Forest College last Saturday.

Last year, the women’s tennis team made it to the Midwest Conference (MWC) title match, where they faced a familiar foe: Lake Forest College. Lake Forest was the only MWC team the Pioneers lost to last season. It was only fitting that the Pioneers got the chance to face them again for the title. However, the Pioneers couldn’t keep up with the Foresters top players, and they suffered a 5-0 loss to end the season.

“Losing to Lake Forest was really hard. Our team was kind of small, and it was tough to deal with. It was a hard year,” Abby Nielsen ’21 said.

Fast forward to this season. The Pioneers started off 4-0 against MWC opponents, and on Saturday, they had a perfect opportunity for revenge. They hosted an undefeated Lake Forest team that was favored in the preseason to win the MWC.

“Last year’s loss was tough for everyone. I think it fueled us up for the match this past weekend. We were definitely trying to get back at them,” Ali Hickey ’21 said, who was forced to sit out all of last season with an injury.

The team started the match on a rough note, dropping two out of their three doubles matches. However, the Pioneers dominated in singles, as their top five players all won their respective matches. The team beat Lake Forest 6-3, and cemented their status as the top dog in the MWC once again.

“[The victory] means a lot for the upperclassmen, as we have the perspective of our past performances against Lake Forest,” Brenda Guan ’20 said. “My first year, we destroyed them, and then we came back my second year beating them 5-4 in a thriller. Last year, after losing to them, we really wanted to bring it back and make sure that last year was a fluke.”

Guan is one of only three upperclassmen on the team this year. Though Guan struggled in her doubles match on Saturday—her and Izzy Green ’22 lost their match 4-8—the two other upperclassmen, Hickey and Nielsen, stepped up in a big way. Nielsen had a commanding 6-0, 6-0 shutout victory in the second singles spot, and Hickey followed suit with a 6-2, 6-3 win in the third singles spot.

While the upperclassmen helped lead the way, a strong first-year class has given the Pioneers a major boost that’s helped get them over the hump. This was evident when Sabrina Tang ’23 and Sophia de los Reyes ’23 pulled out a key victory in the second doubles spot, winning their match 8-5.

“Sophia and Sabrina getting a doubles point for us was huge. Otherwise, it would’ve been a very close match. Getting that doubles point was something that we just couldn’t do last year. Both times we played them, we got swept in doubles,” Guan said.

Tang also won her singles match 6-3, 6-0 in the first singles spot, and de los Reyes grinded out a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 victory in the fourth singles spot. De los Reyes ended up winning MWC Tennis Performer of the Week for her individual performance.

After taking down Lake Forest, the Pioneers are now 5-0 heading into the ITA Midwest Regional Tournament, which starts on Friday. Additionally, the squad has won 33 of their past 34 MWC matches, and sits alone atop the MWC standings.

Now that they’ve avenged their loss to Lake Forest, they’re ready for the next challenge.

“Looking forward, our goal is to win conference and make a run in the NCAA tournament, like we did my first year,” Hickey said.

Sophia de los Reyes ’23 competes against Lake Forest College last Saturday. The women’s tennis team competed against Lake Forest twice last year, losing both matches. This year the team came back for revenge winning 6-3. Contributed.
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