Tartan tennis players compete at ITA Championship

Four Carnegie Mellon tennis players traveled to Fort Myers, Fla., last week to compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Small College Championship. The championship took place at Florida Gulf Coast University and was presented by the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

Senior Mona Iyer and junior Amy Staloch finished third in the women’s doubles championship. Staloch also placed third in the singles championship. First-years Nikola Ljuboja and James Muliawan finished seventh in the men’s doubles championship.

Iyer and Staloch advanced to the semifinals on Thursday by defeating Jackie Shtemberg and Christina Contrafatto of the College of New Jersey 5–7, 7–6 (7–3), (12–10). Iyer and Staloch trailed 8–5 in the super tiebreaker, but came back to take seven of the last nine points to win the match.

“We changed a lot throughout [the quarterfinals],” Staloch said. “We went into it playing so-so and just got better and better. There were several match points for both teams before we finally won, so it was pretty exciting.”

The next day, Iyer and Staloch were defeated by Laura Fanjoy and Gabriela Carvalho of the University of the South in the semifinal match 7–6, 6–3. In the consolation match, the Tartans defeated Amanda Romana and Elizca Buys of Carthage College to secure a third-place finish.

With their win in the quarterfinals, Iyer and Staloch became All-Americans for the 2006–2007 season. This is the third straight year that the pair has received All-American honors.

In the singles championship, Staloch defeated Molly Fiala of Coe College 6–1, 6–2 on Thursday to advance to the semifinals. “I just kept the ball in play longer than [Fiala],” Staloch said. “She had a hard time with high, deep balls, so I just kept hitting those.”

Staloch faced Elizabeth Bondi of DePauw University in the semifinals, falling to Bondi 6–2, 6–1. Bondi went on the win the singles title, her second title in three years. Bondi was not at the tournament when Staloch won the singles championship in 2005.

Staloch faced Richelle Marasigan from Emory University in the consolation match, defeating her 6–3, 6–3 to take third place.

“The reason I won that match [against Marasigan] was because I stayed so level-headed,” Staloch said. “I have really improved my mental toughness throughout the past couple years in college and that’s what got me that win. I just played my game against her and never got frustrated that she’s a very consistent player.”

Ljuboja and Muliawan were defeated by Eric White and Daniel Quinones of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor 6–1, 6–4 in the men’s doubles quarterfinal match on Thursday.

“We had high expectations,” Ljuboja said. “We wanted to get at least third, but [White and Quinones] were very solid and much older then us. They were very experienced and placed the ball very well. They weren’t very powerful, but they were very aggressive.”

On Friday the Tartan duo defeated Thanos Kantarelis and Eric Hansen of the University of Rochester 7–6 (7–4), 7–6 (7–2) to secure seventh place in the championship.

Ljuboja and Muliawan were two of only three first-year players to qualify for the championship. Ljuboja attributes their success to the duo’s teamwork. “We have good chemistry,” he said. “I hit hard and put them away, and James has really good placement. One guy set the other guy up — we’re a one-two punch.”

The ITA Championships marked the end of the fall season for men’s and women’s tennis teams.

The teams’ spring season opens on the road when the men take on Mercyhurst College and the women take on Slippery Rock University. Both matches will take place on February 3.