Tennis starts season off with three strong wins

The Carnegie Mellon tennis teams started off their spring seasons with a bang this weekend. Saturday, the fifth-ranked women’s team routed Division II Slippery Rock University 8–1 and Penn State Erie’s Behrend College 9–0. Yesterday, the 14th-ranked men’s team was equally impressive in defeating Division II Mercyhurst College 8–1.

The women’s ranking of number five is the highest ranking in program history. The men, at 14, are four spots above their program-best finish of 18, achieved at the end of the 2006–2007 season, but three spots below their highest mid-season ranking of number 11. Still, the coach and players are more focused on winning matches than rankings.

“The number-five ranking has been a nice honor for the [women’s] team,” said head coach Andy Girard. “But it is still early in the season. I would say the ranking has given the team a lot of confidence. As a coach, you might fear that a team might relax once they get a high ranking, I feel it has motivated them to work even harder.”

Saturday, there was no evidence of the women relaxing or plateauing at number five as they beat Slippery Rock, ranked 20th in Division II. The Tartan women all won in straight sets — winning best-of-three-set matches in only two sets. However, Slippery Rock’s number-two player, Laura Handy, beat Carnegie Mellon first-year Jennifer Chui 7–6 (5), 6–2.

Senior Amy Staloch, who won 7–5, 7–5 at number-one singles against Slippery Rock, has gained confidence from the high ranking.

“I think the ranking adds to our confidence as a team,” she said. “It is definitely motivating us to play hard in practice. We’ve never been this good before, so I don’t think we feel any pressure to win — it’s just exciting.”

On Saturday afternoon, Penn State Behrend didn’t provide any pressure and the Tartans’ confidence was obvious in every serve, forehand, backhand, and volley the players struck past the beleaguered Penn State Behrend team. In nine singles and doubles matches and 15 sets, the Carnegie Mellon players won 96 out of 107 games. By those numbers, the Penn State players won 0.73 games per set.

With the victories against Slippery Rock and Behrend, the women’s record moves to 3–2.
Sunday, the men’s tennis team traveled to Erie, Pa. to take on the Mercyhurst Lakers. The Tartans won eight out of nine matches in straight sets. The Lakers managed to drown one of the Carnegie Mellon doubles teams, though, 9–7. With the win, the Tartan men improved their record to 4–1.

First-year Alex Nemerov and sophomore Jon Spero had regional singles rankings of 14th and 20th, respectively. The doubles team of Nemerov and junior Yiran Liu was ranked 13th.
“All we try to focus on is improving ourselves, and by doing that, all those other things like rankings, NCAAs, etc. take care of themselves,” Girard said.

On Saturday and Sunday, the men play West Virginia Wesleyan and Robert Morris. On Sunday, the women play Robert Morris.