The Massachusetts tennis team kicked off the fall season at the Eastern Collegiate Invitational at Army in West Point, N.Y. this past weekend, making an overall positive impression on UMass coach Judy Dixon.
“I was happy to see a bunch of us get to the second day of play,” Dixon said on Sunday. “This is the time of the season when you want to see them play as much as possible. It’s good to get a lot in early to really evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses are.”
The youth of the team posted outstanding performances, seeing sophomore Julia Comas win the Flight B singles championship, as well as freshman Jessica Podlofsky winning Flight D.
“I was very encouraged to see them both do well,” Dixon said. “You want to play as much tennis as you can in the fall to prepare for winter, and it was good to see them both play deep into their brackets.”
Comas won two matches each on Saturday and Sunday, before beating out West Virginia’s Emily Mathis in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2 in the Sunday final.
“I’m proud of the way she played,” Dixon said. “She started out of the gate well, and finished all the way through.”
Podlofsky also won four matches, racking up four shutout sets along the way. The Port Washington, N.Y. native beat out WVU’s Melis Tanik in straight sets, 7-5, 6-0 to take the crown.
“[Jessica’s] a gamer. She really works hard at all parts of her game and I think she really loved being out there and competing,” Dixon said. “It’s nice to see that as a coach, and I look forward to what she can bring against every opponent.”
No. 1 singles player Yuliana Motyl had a bye in the first round before losing to Hofstra’s Elena Ivanova in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
“It was good for her to get out there and compete for the first time,” Dixon said. “Maybe she didn’t get enough play as she hoped for, but she knows things to look for now in her game to improve upon.”
Junior Gabby Jannotta (Flight D) came out of the weekend with a victory in singles play, defeating New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Megan Guidry, 6-1, 6-2 on Friday. Jannotta went on to lose in the second round to WVU’s Tanik in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2.
Doubles remained a big question mark for UMass heading into the weekend until senior Kaityln Carpenter and sophomore Jocelyn Providence solidified their roles as a key pairing for the team. The duo defeated four opponents in the Flight B doubles bracket before losing to Amherst College’s Mimi Bell and Jen Newman in the finals, 9-8, in a highly-contested, back and forth matchup.
“The both of them played great together,” Dixon said. “The biggest thing I everyone to take out of this weekend was to learn to really work together. It’s important, because it can decide whether you win or lose based on your communication with your partner.”
The Flight A doubles pairing of senior Tanisha Hodgson and sophomore Chantel Swiszcz were bounced early on Friday, receiving a bye before losing to Bucknell’s Dumitrita Iepuras and Elena Vidrascu, 8-6.
“I wish they could have played more, but from what they did do, I was pretty happy,” Dixon said. “Teamwork is crucial in doubles. You can’t win unless you work together, and that’s just something we need to work on.”
Dixon used the weekend’s tournament as a “measuring stick” to gage where she sees her team now and what they need to do as they approach Atlantic 10 opponents in the near future.
“We’re fall-ready right now,” she said. “We’ve had a chance to come in and get our legs underneath us. But we’re not winter-ready. We face some really tough teams coming up, and this is the time of the year where you need to get yourself into winter-ready shape. The harder we work now, the more prepared we will be for when conference teams come around.”
Scott Cournoyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.