Tennis dominates at home, on road

The eighth-ranked Carnegie Mellon women’s tennis team kicked off the spring season with a bang on Saturday, hosting Slippery Rock University and Penn State Behrend to defeat both opponents by a score of 9–0. The team then hit the road Sunday to shut out Mercyhurst as well, 9–0. After the three shutouts, the Tartans have now won all four of their dual matches in the 2008–09 season, all of them by 9–0 scores.

Playing on the Oxford North Athletic Club courts on Saturday, the Tartans wasted no time in setting a winning tone. Sophomore Ashley Herrick and first-year Laura Chen began doubles by defeating Slippery Rock’s Kayla Blackburn and Laura Handy 8–6. They were followed by two more sophomore/first-year duos, with Kelly Hart and Amanda Wu winning 8–3 and Jennifer Chui and Courtney Chin winning their match 8–1.

The momentum from the doubles dominance carried right over to the singles matches, in which the women did not drop a single set. Chen defeated Blackburn 6–3, 6–0, followed by Wu, who defeated Handy 6–4, 6–3. Chin then dominated Slippery Rock’s Jessi Hilborn 6–1, 6–0, while Chui won her sets 6–1, 6–3. First-year Cze-Ja Tam and junior Alisa Liebowitz closed out the matches and the shutout, winning 6–4, 6–0 and 6–1, 6–0, respectively.

“We have a young team, so it’s great for us to get some dual-match experience in before our big event later this month, the ITA National Indoor Championships,” said coach Andrew Girard. “We’ve been experimenting with some different doubles combinations and I think we found some that worked well.”

The overpowering continued in the Behrend matches, as the Tartans never lost more than two games in a set. The doubles began with the Herrick/Chen duo defeating Karen Hobaugh and Hilary Lasher 8–1 before Hart and Wu shut out their opponents 8–0. Chin and Tam then won their match 8–1, while Chui and Liebowitz won an exhibition match 8–2.

Shutouts were the theme of the singles matches against Behrend, as each Tartan registered at least one in each of their matches. The six women dropped only five games total, with Wu and Chui both winning their matches 6–0, 6–0 and Chin, Calvert, and Tam all winning 6–0, 6–1. Liebowitz won her match by scores of 6–2 and 6–0 to secure the 9–0 victory.

At Mercyhurst on Sunday, the Tartans once more started off with a bang, with the doubles teams of Chen and Herrick, Chin and Hart, and Chui and Tam sweeping the doubles matches 8–0, 8–1 and 8–0, respectively. Chen then defeated the Lakers’ Kim Ezzo 6–2, 6–3, carrying the momentum from the doubles victories and setting the pace once more for the Tartans to sweep the singles matches. Liebowitz had an especially impressive showing, winning against Kelton Macke 6–0, 6–0.
“The entire team played amazing yesterday and we did not lose a single match, doubles or singles, against both universities,” said Wu of the two victories on Saturday. “We blew away SRU and PSU Behrend, and I know we have the talent to go far — maybe even win UAA championships. Emory will be our goal. NCAA championships will be a challenge, but I know we can definitely make it if we work hard.”

Girard shared her sentiments. “Our doubles played very great, and everyone is looking sharper each match we play,” he said. “Considering that we’ve only been practicing for a week, I thought everyone looked pretty sharp. If we keep playing up to our potential, we will be tough to beat.”

The Tartans next hit the court Feb. 22 at home on the campus courts against Robert Morris University.