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Weekend pair on tap for Minutewomen

The Massachusetts tennis team looks to keep its home winning streak going in a pair of weekend matches against St. John’s and Army. The Minutewomen have won three straight games at home.

St. John’s currently holds a 1-5 record on the young spring season. The Red Storm defeated Colombia on Jan. 31, but have fallen to Buffalo, Syracuse, Boston University, Dartmouth and Stony Brook as well.

No. 1 singles player Ira Aleksova echoes the difficulty St. John’s has had thus far, sporting a 0-6 record in dual match play. The lone bright spot for the Red Storm is sophomore Joanna Zwirbulis, who has gone 4-2 in singles action. Other than Zwirbulis, no St. John’s singles or doubles competitor boasts a winning record.

However, the Minutewomen (2-1) must stay wary of the Red Storm because on Nov. 6th, St. John’s defeated UMass, 7-2, in tournament play.

Sophomore Magdalena Ploch was the star of the day for the Minutewomen, winning her singles match over Aleksova, 6-4, 6-2, while teaming up with freshman Julia Comas to beat sophomores Ece Firat and Jenny Yonkus, 8-1. Both Comas and junior Tanisha Hodgson played competitively in singles as well, falling in three sets to Firat and sophomore Nakita Austin.

The Red Storm finished 9-13 last year, including a 5-6 mark in Big East play. Since 2003, UMass is 3-1 against St. John’s.

On Sunday, the Minutewomen will also match up with the Black Knights. Army currently has a 4-3 record on the season, holding victories over Sacred Heart, Seton Hall, Fordham and Connecticut, which UMass also defeated earlier this year.

The Black Knights are headlined by Anne Houghton, a two-time Patriot League Player of the Year. Houghton holds the single season record for dual match singles victories for Army with 18. She also became the first player in Patriot League history to garner Player and Rookie of the Year awards in 2008. Houghton also defeated Candynce Boney, 6-2, 6-3 at No. 1 singles in the 2009 spring season.

Houghton and Ploch have matched up before this season, with Ploch holding a 6-4, 0-6, 6-2 victory over Houghton at the ITA Regional Championships. Ploch went on to upset the No. 3 seed from Harvard, Hideko Tachibana, 6-2, 6-2 in that tournament. The upcoming matchup this Saturday will be the first meeting between Ploch and Houghton since their previous encounter.

Other notable players for the Black Knights include senior captain Kristin Beehler, who has been an All-Patriot League competitor each of her three previous seasons. She teamed with Houghton last year to lead the team with a 20-5 mark in doubles action. Beehler was also a Co-MVP of the Patriot League Championships last year after winning two singles matches and one doubles match during the tournament.

UMass is looking to stop a losing skid against Army this weekend. Since 2003, the Minutewomen have gone 1-5 against the Black Knights, including two 4-3 losses in the last two years. The last UMass victory against Army took place in March of 2007, as Michele Spiess led the Minutewomen past the Black Knights, 4-3.

Both matches will take place at the Bay Road Tennis Club this weekend. The match against St. John’s will be at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, while the match against Army will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

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

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