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UMass travels to face Yale to begin spring season

The Massachusetts tennis team will begin its spring season looking to turn things around from a sixth-place finish in the Atlantic 10 last year. 

The Minutewomen are coming off a 3-0 fall season, when they defeated Holy Cross, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. They travel to Connecticut on Friday to face Yale to kick off the spring. 

UMass has been picked to finish fifth in the A-10 in the conference’s preseason poll. This is one spot up from last year’s sixth-place finish, leapfrogging Saint Louis, who finished fifth last season. Richmond was picked to repeat as A-10 champions after earning their fifth title in the last six campaigns a year ago. Temple, conference champion in 2008, was predicted to finish second, while Charlotte was tabbed to finish in the number three slot. 

The Minutewomen will face three teams ranked in the top 75 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings this spring season. Those three teams are No. 48 Yale, No. 63 Brown and No. 61 Boston University. Other notable matches include a contest against St. John’s on Feb. 20, a match against Dartmouth on Feb. 25, and a match at home against Boston College on Feb. 27. 

Heading into the season, the Bulldogs will be the highest ranked opponent the Minutewomen will play. Yale is a team on the rise, as demonstrated by its five players ranked in the Northeast top 20 of the ITA rankings, and its No. 7 position in the 2014 recruiting class, the highest placement the Bulldogs have ever had. 

Yale is helmed by Debbie McNamara, a Massachusetts native. McNamara has posted a 35-22 record over her four seasons with the Bulldogs. The team is led by Cornell transfer Stephanie Kent, who posted the best record for Cornell in the 2008-09 season before leaving for Yale. She is currently ranked No. 9 in the Northeast in the ITA rankings. 

On Feb. 25 against the Big Green, UMass will look to rebound from a 12-0 drubbing that closed out the 2009-10 fall season. The Minutewomen were blanked on the final day of the Big Green Invitational, hosted by Dartmouth. No. 2 singles player Mary Beth Winningham defeated Julia Comas 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the only match to go three sets. UMass was suffering from minor injuries that forced changes in the bottom half of their lineup, causing freshman Jocelyn Providence to play admirably in her first competitive tournament situation. 

The Feb. 27 match against the Eagles is the last significant opponent of the season for the Minutewomen. BC is coming off a 2008-09 season that saw it ranked No. 58 in the country, its highest ranking under coach Nigel Bentley. The Eagles lost three starters from last year’s club, including their top two singles competitors. However, BC reloaded with the No. 21 ranked recruiting class in the nation. Over the fall season, the Eagles posted a 1-3 record, but ended on a high note with a 7-0 sweep of Rhode Island. 

After the Minutewomen wrap up their regular season schedule, the A-10 Championships will be held April 22-25 at the Dwight Davis Tennis Center in St. Louis. 

Players to watch this season are sophomore Magdalena Ploch and freshman Julia Comas. Ploch was ranked No. 10 in singles players in the Northeast in the ITA preseason poll. She was the ace of the squad during the fall season, going 10-3 overall, including a 3-0 mark in dual matches at No. 2 singles, and a 7-3 record in tournament play. Ploch was named UMass Athlete of the Week in Nov. for her performance at the ITA Regional Championships. 

Comas enters her first spring season with high expectations. After posting a 3-0 mark in dual matches as part of a 6-4 overall record, Comas will return to playing No. 2 singles for the Minutewomen. The 5’11 freshman from Spain also went 4-3, teaming with Ploch in doubles action, including a 3-0 mark in dual matches. 

The team of Maude Lecluyse and Candynce Boney also returns to action in the spring. The duo achieved a 7-3 mark in doubles play during the fall season, good for best on the team. 

The match against Yale will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday night in the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center. 

Ben Lambert can be reached a wlambert@student.umass.edu.

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