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UMass tennis gears up for weekend of Atlantic 10 matches

Jong Man Kim/Collegian

Beginning Saturday, the Massachusetts women’s tennis team faces its biggest weekend of matches of the season, as it will face two Atlantic 10 opponents in Rhode Island and Fordham. UMass currently sits at 7-7 (2-0 A-10) on the season, with only the pair left on the schedule before the A-10 championship next weekend in Orlando.

“These matches are very important,” Minutewomen coach Judy Dixon said. “The A-10 conference is wide open this year and anyone can win.”

UMass heads to the Ocean State

The first match of the weekend will be Saturday as the Minutewomen take on Rhode Island (8-14, 2-3 A-10) on the road at 11 a.m.

“Rhode Island has improved and this will be a good match for us to play,” Dixon said. “As the season gets into late April the majority of matches are planned to be outside.”

“It’s always windy at Rhode Island and this will be a gritty match,” Dixon added. “I expect that we will be as ready as can be after no matches these last few weeks.”

UMass has not had a match in over three weeks since its 4-3 loss to St. John’s on the road March 31. Before that, the Minutewomen’s last match was on March 17.

UMass has had its fair share of rest over the past month and should be prepared to take on the challenge of two competitive league matches. The Rams have recently played two conference matches this past weekend, defeating both Saint Joseph’s and La Salle.

The Minutewomen, on the other hand, have played two conference matches all season. UMass defeated George Washington 6-1 back on Feb. 11 and got a 4-3 win over Davidson on March 17.

Minutewomen host Fordham in finale

On Sunday, UMass will have its first outdoor home match of the spring at Mullins Center tennis courts at 1 p.m.

“Traveling and playing is part of Division I tennis,” Dixon said. “This is not a problem.”

The Rams (17-2, 3-0 A-10) just recently had a 16-game winning streak snapped last Saturday, falling to St. John’s 5-2.

“Fordham is having an outstanding year and is 17-2,” Dixon said. “They are always tough for us and it is also Senior Day. I expect that we are determined to beat them with a bit of a chip on our shoulders about them. Unfortunately, the forecast is for rain.”

The pairings of Ana Yrazusta and Janja Kovacevic, and Ruth Crawford and Anna Woosley will be key this weekend as they have been all season. Kovacevic has been a key addition to a team that finished second in the A-10 regular season standings last year.

“The team is hungry to play no matter where right now,” Dixon said. “They know the importance of these matches, especially Fordham. The outcome of these matches will affect our seeding for the tournament. The seeding for the tournament will be released next Monday.”

The Minutewomen still have the bad feeling from getting knocked out in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament last year after earning the second seed. The two matches this weekend will be treated like tournament games, as they will be against conference opponents.

This weekend should determine the fate of the 2016-17 UMass women’s tennis team, and the final leg of Judy Dixon’s illustrious coaching career.

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

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