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May 4, 2017

UMass tennis drops tight match in shortened trip to St. John’s, 4-3

(Jong Man Kim/Collegian)

The Massachusetts’s tennis team dropped its lone match of the weekend Friday afternoon against St. John’s at the U.S. National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. The Minutewomen (7-7, 2-0 Atlantic 10) and Red Storm (13-3, 4-0 Big East) played three singles matches to tie-breakers as St. John’s eventually prevailed in a tight 4-3 victory.

The two teams played to a draw in hard-fought singles competition. After dropping the first match, UMass was able to rattle off three straight victories with sophomore Ruth Crawford, junior Ana Yrazusta and senior Anna Woosley all scoring triumphs. However, losses from freshman Martina Bocchi (three sets) and senior Brittany Collens (two sets) allowed St. John’s to get right back in the match.

“We knew that No. 1 singles and doubles would be tough because of Jessica Livianu, their top player who is ranked in the top 50 in the nation in Division I,” UMass coach Judy Dixon said. “No. 5 we played Martina Bocchi who has struggled this year. She was ahead 6-2, 4-2 and then could not close the match. This proved to be the decider.”

Doubles play was ultimately what led to the loss for the Minutewomen. Crawford and Woosley dropped the first doubles set 6-2 to Livianu and Anna Morozova. Yrazusta and Janja Kovacevic evened things up in doubles two by defeating Stephanie Elgegren and Jaide Collins by a score of 6-4, but the Red Storm took a 7-5 victory in No. 3 doubles to take the doubles point.

“As it turned out doubles No. 3 was a key,” Dixon said.

“We just focused on getting ready to play indoors against St. John’s. St. John’s is in the middle of a great year at 13-3 with wins over good teams,” Dixon said.

The trip to New York was supposed to be a two-match affair. However, the Saturday match against Stony Brook was cancelled earlier last week due to weather. Now the focus for the Minutewomen turns to the home stretch with a heavy emphasis on Atlantic 10 play.

“At this point every match that we can play is good for us and this is now a hardship in that we must try to stay match tough without playing matches for 20 days,” Dixon said. “Both Rhode Island and Fordham are scheduled to be outside and it is critical that we play them right before Atlantic 10’s in Orlando.”

Playing spring sports at any level of competition in the Northeast is always a challenge no matter the sport. UMass baseball and softball teams have had multiple postponements and location changes in the past week due to constant snow and rain, and that should not be expected to change in April.

“We are definitely at a disadvantage this time of year” Dixon said. “I have to be creative and flexible this time of the year as we practice indoors, outdoors, wherever and whenever.”

This is the time of the season when coaches find out about their teams, and as currently constituted, the Minutewomen are .500, on par with what Dixon expected heading into the season. She has previously stated that she knew her team was going to have a tougher time because of their strength of schedule compared to last year when they were the No. 2 seed going into A-10 play.

“The team has to remain vigilant. All of this is tough. We will now focus on just improving some things that we can and in about two weeks we will begin to focus on Rhode Island,” Dixon said.

A lengthy break could be exactly what coach Dixon’s team needs at this point in the season, especially with the importance of the coming matches..

The Minutewomen are scheduled to next play April 22 at Rhode Island before returning home to the Mullins Center tennis courts to host Fordham in the regular-season finale the following day.

Jake Mackey can be reached at jacobmackey@umass.edu.

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