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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Women’s Tennis shuffles line-up, looks to Regionals

After going 13-1 during the fall season, the Grinnell Women’s Tennis team is aiming high this spring in the run-up to NCAA Regionals. Their season restarted over spring break and the women have put up a of 5-3 record this spring, putting them one win away from tying last year’s win record. Despite the losses this spring, Coach Andy Hamilton is pleased with the way the team is playing.

“We have the option in terms of this spring being a learning experience, but I have to say, if we get everyone playing at their top level, this is the best team that Grinnell’s had. So why wait till next year, let’s make some noise,” he said.

Sadhana Athreya ’14, echoed Hamilton’s sentiment, saying that improvement that started over the fall has continued during the spring.

“Over especially our spring break trip we were not supposed to do as well as we did,” Athreya, number two singles, said. The team finished their trip with a 3-2 record. “After the spring break, we’ve continued to improve, we beat central [April 12] 8-1 and last season we struggled to beat them 5-4.”

The Women’s team is coming off a very strong fall season—as the number one seed from the south division, they cruised to their 6th Midwest Conference title in seven years.

“At the individual championships we won the number two singles, number three singles, number four singles, number five singles and number six singles and I think we won number two and three doubles,” Hamilton said. “So it was a very fruitful Midwest Conference Championships.”

After dominating the fall season, dropping only one match to Coe College, the team received recognition and is currently ranked 13th in the Central Region by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. This is the first time in seven years that Grinnell has been ranked in the region. Grinnell will face off against Coe, who is ranked 11th in the Central Region this Sunday at 11 a.m. in Cedar Rapids. Although Grinnell lost to Coe 6-3 last fall, Hamilton thinks that a change in mind set could be the difference between a win this weekend and last fall’s loss.

“Coe was the only team that beat us in the fall and our women are very aware of that so I anticipate a very competitive match just because of our determination,” Hamilton said. “I hope to see us go over to Cedar Rapids and really compete to win. It might happen, it might not, but I want to see that mentality. We went there in the fall saying ‘This is a barometer match, we’ll see how strong we are.’ We walked away saying ‘Darn it, if we had taken a little different attitude…’”

The women have had to solidify several aspects of their game in order to be at their very best before NCAA Regionals, including their roster. After losing number one singles player Toby Cain ’12 to study abroad, the team picked up a talented transfer in Laura Krull ’14 who replaced Cain at number one singles and got back the experienced Tatyana Sukharnikova ’12 from her semester abroad. Despite the extensive roster shifts, the women have handled the shifts without a drop in play or team unity.

“Things are different this semester,” Hamilton said. “Whenever you have changes the team is vulnerable to upsetting the apple cart. But what we’ve gained, because the apple cart remained steady so to speak, is the ability and understanding by our student-athletes that they all individually contribute to a collective team effort.”

The only issue on the court that worries Hamilton is doubles. Finding the right chemistry between two players can be difficult as is having to start over again at the beginning of the semester.

“Against Augustana we lost 5-4, we split the singles, but they took two of three doubles,” Hamilton said. “For a team’s confidence and for a team starting off the match doubles play is very important. I think I have our team’s worked out. Laura Krull and Sadhana Athreya, Constanza Alarcon [‘13] and Catherine Fitch [‘13], which of course are our two-time number two Midwest Conference Champions, and then I really like Clothilde Thirouin [‘13] and Tatyana Sukharnikova [’12], and those two are still really working out the kinks.”

Krull, who joined the team at the beginning of the semester, quickly found her place. She and her doubles partner, Athreya, found a connection almost immediately and they have cemented their position as number one doubles.

“I felt right away that I had this group of solid friends,” Krull said. “And I showed up to practice on the first day and Coach said, ‘Hey, it would be really great if you and Sadhana would pay together and we’ll see what happens,’ and we played together and never looked back. We clicked when we stepped on the court, our games complement each other and we have the same mentality on the court.”

Athreya says that the reason she and Krull bonded so quickly was their communication and understanding of each other’s style of play.

“We enjoy ourselves out there,” Athreya said. “We’re able to laugh at each other and we don’t find the need to apologize for making mistakes. But the thing is we can talk things through.”

That environment of open communication and team chemistry is also what Athreya and Krull say is the team’s main strength. But as Regionals draw nearer and match play is sharpened, Hamilton’s focus on the mental game looks like the last big step. Two solid matches (or wins) against a regionally ranked Coe and nationally ranked Carleton would demonstrate that this team is mentally ready for the Regionals match-up.

“As long as we play close tight matches, we’re going to have a lot of confidence going into Regionals,” Krull said.

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