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Women’s Tennis Clinches Share of MIAA Title

By Spencer MacDonald

Smiling, and soaking wet from the cooler of water that had just been dumped on him, Kalamazoo College Women’s Tennis Coach Mark Murphy celebrated along with his team after beating Albion College 7-2 and clinching a share of the MIAA conference championship on Saturday.

The Hornets bounced back after the number one-doubles team of Sarah Woods and Jenna Riehl dropped their first match 8-6, and dominated the Britons in singles on their way to the team’s first conference title since 2007.  Wins by the second and third doubles teams Kelsey Moran/Olivia Bouchard and Ania Latala/Sabrina Dass led Kalamazoo into singles with a 2-1 lead.  Sarah Woods continued her dominance in first singles, clinching the match with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Albion’s Katie Blumberg.  Freshman standout Sabrina Dass continued her undefeated run in MIAA four singles, dispatching her opponent Heather Vogt with an emphatic 6-0, 6-1 win as Moran, Latala, and Bouchard all took home their matchups as well.

“We knew we needed this win for a share of the title, so going in we were a little nervous,” said senior captain Kelsey Moran.  “They had a strong singles lineup so it was important that we got out to a lead in doubles.  This title means so much to us seniors and to the rest of the team as well.”

Coach Murphy, who is in his fourth year with the program, knows the lofty expectations that surround both Men’s and Women’s Tennis at Kalamazoo College.  Murphy has worked hard to create a legacy for the women’s program that is often overshadowed by the Men’s 76 year MIAA conference championship streak.  After coming up just short of an MIAA championship in the past three years, he has now clinched a share of the title with the win against Albion and has the opportunity to bring Kalamazoo their first outright women’s title since 1996 with a win over St. Mary’s this Saturday.

“Winning a conference title around here is an important thing,” said Coach Murphy.  “It’s what we strive to do and those are the expectations.  We’re looking forward to this Saturday and competing for a chance to go to the NCAA tournament.”

Murphy believes the young Hornets team, currently ranked 9th in the region, has what it takes to reach the next level.  With sophomore Sarah Woods coming off her elite eight appearance in the NCAA tournament last year, and the senior leadership of players such as Jenna Riehl and Kelsey Moran, the team has the talent and the mindset to capture the MIAA tournament title and continue on to the national tournament.

“This is one of the most competitive teams that I have ever coached,” said Murphy.  “They are quite skilled but the thing that really separates them from the other teams in the conference is their passion for each other and their passion for winning and competing.  This is a special year because every single person on the roster has made significant contributions to the team’s success.”

The Hornets have found success through their talent and drive but also through their cohesiveness and chemistry as well.  The tight-knit team shares their individual success with each other and was rewarded with a conference championship that was a first for all members of the squad.

“This is the best team that we’ve had in a long time,” said Moran.  “We work really well together and know each other really well.  I’ve never been on a stronger team.”

Moving into the future, Coach Murphy and the team are determined to build up a championship culture for Kalamazoo College Women’s Tennis.  The Hornets return four out of six starters next year as well as a couple of top tier recruits that are coming in.  The future is bright for the current team in the 2014 season as well as seasons to come.

“There’s a certain trend that tennis has here at Kalamazoo,” said Coach Murphy.  “We’d like to think that this MIAA title is the first of 76 straight for us.  We just have to take it one year at a time.”

The Hornets return to action this Saturday at St. Mary’s for a shot at the outright MIAA conference championship.

Women’s Tennis Opens Season with Victory

By Spencer MacDonald

Bringing down the Ohio Northern Polar Bears 6-3, the Kalamazoo College Women’s Tennis team starts the season off right. 

 

The Kalamazoo College women’s tennis team kicked off their season with a 6-3 win over the Ohio Northern Polar Bears on Saturday, February 8.  The Hornets trailed two to one after the doubles matches, but proceeded to win five of the six singles to avenge last year’s 5-4 loss to Ohio Northern.

Sarah Woods and Jenna Riehl easily handled ONU’s Christina Corbean and Brittany Toney in one doubles match winning with a score of 8-3, and although the Hornets struggled in second and third doubles, they dominated singles with Sarah Woods, Sabrina Dass, Ania Latala, and Olivia Bouchard, all dispatching their opponent in straight sets. Senior captain Jenna Riehl also added to her undefeated day with a three-set singles victory.

“We were a little nervous during doubles,” said Riehl. “We really couldn’t get our serves in at first, but we pulled through and got the win.”

Kalamazoo came into the match ranked 15th in the region while the Polar Bears boasted the number 13 spot. ONU returned to Markin Racquet Center after their victory over the unranked Hornets last year; however, it was a very different, more determined Kalamazoo team that met them on Saturday. After suffering a defeat last season to the then ranked 15th in the region, Polar Bears, the Hornets earned a much needed win to open up their 2014 season.

“We lost to them 4-5 last year,” said junior captain Olivia Bouchard following the victory.  “I always think about last year’s match so it was really important to get the win.  It’s good to start out undefeated.”

The Hornets are coming off of a solid year in 2013, finishing with a 13-8 record (7-1 in the MIAA). Kalamazoo finished second in the conference, trailing only behind Hope College as the Dutchmen went a perfect 8-0 in conference play. Though the team is young, they have been getting contributions from all across their lineup, including sophomore and number-one singles player, Sarah Woods. As a freshman, Woods made a deep run in last year’s NCAA tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals before getting knocked out by Middlebury’s Loz-Sze Leung, who would eventually go on to win the national championship.

With Woods returning with a year under her belt, coupled with the leadership and play of captains Riehl, Bouchard and Kelsey Moran, the young Hornets’ team is in position to make a run at the MIAA championship and a potential NCAA tournament berth.

During the 2013 season, Woods went 26-3 overall in singles (8-0 MIAA) and teamed up with Bouchard to finish 20-6 in doubles, including an undefeated MIAA run for the pair.  Riehl added a 6-2 record in both singles and doubles in MIAA play and Moran finished at the 6-1 mark in conference play.  The Hornets will look to exploit their depth in the MIAA and develop their young talent.

“Our lineup is going to be loaded,” said Bouchard. “We are young but we’ve had a full year of our players being in the lineup so we have a much higher experience level.  That will be very beneficial in the future.”

The Hornets return to action Saturday, Feb. 15 at home against Baldwin Wallace University in the Markin Racquet Center at 1:00 PM.