Following their impressive performance at home Wednesday afternoon against the University of Pittsburgh, the 15th-ranked Carnegie Mellon women?s tennis team proved that in addition to dominating their Division III competition, they can also battle closely with scholarship-laden Division I powerhouses. In the David versus Goliath matchup ? played out on a beautiful spring day that brought a giant ring of spectators to the courts ? the Tartans outperformed all expectations, but still fell 6?3.
The duo of Amy Staloch and Mona Iyer, the second-ranked doubles team in all of Division III tennis, set the tone for a competitive match by routinely disposing of Pitt?s Annie Davies and Becky Emmers 8?3. In singles as well, Iyer and Staloch were ungalled by their Division I opponents, and both won hard-fought three-set matches. Iyer blitzed Emmers with a barrage of flat, powerful ground strokes that eventually wore down the Panthers? number two player. Staloch?s match, by contrast, played out more like a chess contest.
After Staloch rolled through the first set on pure power, Davies upset her timing with a mix of short slices and rolling topspin lobs that gave her the second set 6?1. In the final set, however, Staloch cut down on her errors and easily closed out the match.
Staloch said of her win, ?I think at first I was intimidated by them being Division I scholarship
players, but Mona played very well in doubles and winning that made it just another match for me. Still, it was of course not an easy match.?
Even with their victories at the top the Tartans could not overcome the Panthers? superior depth. Pitt won at both second and third doubles 8?0, and similarly rolled through the back of CMU?s lineup, winning at positions three through six. Still, the Tartans had some chances, particularly at five and six singles where Grace Hwang and Kavita Shah each managed to win a set. Shah, in particular, had some chances to pull out her match, but could not convert on any of the big points late in the deciding set.
Her teammate, Mai Otsuka, describes that match as just one that could have gone either way. She says, ?It?s good to play with good teams and get better, but I think we are right with them; just a couple of matches went the wrong way. They are Division I but we?re not scared of them or anything, and next year we are going to beat them. Just not a very good day this time.?
Though losing is never easy, the team stands to gain a lot after competing with a Division I titan. The team will look to build on the confidence gained Wednesday, and carry that confidence through the rest of the regular season. For Carnegie Mellon, it is now back to the grind of Division III tennis, where they will continue to be one of the top teams to beat in the country.
Though they are currently 15th, their standing will likely increase after regular season victories over nationally ranked University of Mary Washington and Wheaton College?Illinois. The team?s only two Division III losses have come to top 20 teams. Next, they play this Monday against the University of California and then return to action April 10 at Swarthmore College.