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UMass tennis sets sights for Atlantic 10 tournament

Jong Man Kim/Collegian

The Massachusetts’s tennis team has concluded its regular season and will now take an undefeated conference record to Orlando for the Atlantic 10 tournament. It will be the second straight season that UMass will be the second overall seed. Last season came to a crashing halt when the Minutewomen (9-7, 4-0 A-10) fell in the first round to No. 7 George Washington.

Most notably, this could be the last go-around for UMass coach Judy Dixon as she is retiring following this season after an illustrious 25-year stint as head coach. She has opted to not comment on her retirement since she announced that this would be her final season in September.

“I don’t want a Kobe Bryant or Big Papi farewell tour,” Dixon told the Massachusetts Daily Collegian in September. “I’m well aware that every day is the last day of this, but I want to put it aside and revisit it at the end of the season.”

Now that the A-10 tournament has finally arrived, Dixon’s motto has remained consistent all year—the Minutewomen’s mindset hasn’t changed.

“The focus is not to get ahead of ourselves as we did last year and just to focus on what is in front of us,” Dixon said about the tournament in an email to the Collegian. “Taking things one match at a time.”

“We are really trying hard to emphasize how much we really want to win A-10’s this year, but also not doing what we did last year,” senior Anna Woosley told the Collegian in February. “We don’t want to say ‘when we win A-10’s,’ we want to take things one step at a time. If we win a match great, if we lose we move on to the next one.”

UMass is seeded behind the four-time reigning conference champion Virginia Commonwealth (14-8, 1-0 A-10) whom the Minutewomen have not played yet this season. UMass defeated Fordham (No. 3 seed), Davidson (No. 4), George Washington (No. 9) and Rhode Island (No. 11).

The Minutewomen will face No. 7 Duquesne after it defeated No. 10 George Mason, 4-1 Wednesday. UMass didn’t face either team this season.

The Minutewomen will lead by their upperclassmen in seniors Brittany Collens, Julia Larson and Anna Woosley. Much of the production this season has come from the likes of junior Ana Yrazusta, sophomore Ruth Crawford and freshmen Janja Kovacevic. The doubles team of Kovacevic and Yrazusta is 15-7 on the season with the combination of Collens and Moreno going 5-1. Both combinations will play a pivotal part in the tournament as Dixon always alludes to how important the doubles points are. In singles play, Collens led UMass with a 19-8 overall record, which was the team high for wins.

Playing outdoors in the Florida heat will be an adjustment for a team that has played the majority of their matches indoors or outside in raw conditions. However, a three-match stretch over spring break in South Carolina in which the Minutewomen went 2-1 could serve as good experience for this tournament.

“The weather will play a factor as it will be 90 degrees,” Dixon said.

The message for the 2016-17 Minutewomen has been to take everything one match at a time, and to focus on what is directly ahead of them, and to not take things for granted like they did last year, which resulted in an abrupt end to their season.

UMass’ first match is slated for today at 4 p.m.

Jake Mackey can be reached at jacobmackey@umass.edu

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