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UMass Tennis starts season strong at Brown Invitational

(Collegian File Photo)

One of the goals for the Massachusetts tennis team during its fall season is to see improvement and progress in preparation for its head-to-head matches and Atlantic 10 play this spring.

That is exactly what first-year coach Juancarlos Nunez saw this past weekend when he took his team down to Providence, Rhode Island for their first tournament of the year, The Brown Invitational, where they competed against Brown, Stony Brook and Rutgers.

Following a lackluster Friday in which the Minutewomen won four matches but dropped eight against the Ivy League host school, UMass was lights-out Saturday and Sunday, winning seven-of-eight singles competitions on each day and only losing one doubles contest on Sunday.

“Overall, I’m very happy with how we competed, our effort and how we came together as a team for our first weekend tournament,” Nunez said, addressing the weekend play.

Senior Ana Yrazusta starred for the Minutewomen, winning five-of-six matches she entered, including all three doubles matches with her partner, fellow senior Laura Moreno. The pair was the second-seeded doubles team.

Yrazusta took two-of-three as the top-ranked singles player, competing against each team’s best. She will be looked to as a crucial member of the 2017-18 team.

“She played with very good composure. She handled her nerves very well in big moments,” Nunez said.

Another upperclassman who will be looked to as a team leader this year is Ruth Crawford. After already being selected as a captain for this year’s campaign, Nunez named her to his first doubles team, competing alongside sophomore Janja Kovacevic. The pair took one-of-three matches on the weekend. Crawford won two contests as the No. 2 singles player, defeating Stony Brook’s Maria Ribeiro on Saturday and Rutgers’ Chloe Lee on Sunday.

With eight singles and four doubles contests each day for three straight days, there were plenty of opportunities for underclassman to get their first collegiate experiences.

“They are a very gritty and energetic group,” Nunez said. “They are out there running for every ball. They just do not stop.”

The first-year coach could have been referencing his fourth-seeded doubles team from the weekend, Martina Bocchi and Jovana Bogicevic. The pair went undefeated in their doubles competitions, while each won two-of-three singles matches. Both players’ lone losses came on Friday.

In her first career collegiate tournament, Bocchi took Sunday’s No. 6 singles match 6-4, 6-3 against Rutgers’ Isabelle Da Silva. This came a day after dominating Stony Brook’s Elizabeth Pam 6-1, 6-2.

Following two more weeks of practice, UMass will travel to New Haven, Connecticut to compete in its second tournament of the fall season, The Bulldog Invitational, hosted by Yale University. The tournament takes place during the weekend of Oct. 6, 7 and 8.

Nunez believes these fall tournaments are very beneficial to his team.

“I feel like our schedule this fall sets up to give us good opportunities to keep learning and growing and pushing ourselves against strong competition,” Nunez said. “So then we are really ready to peak and bring out our best tennis in the spring.”

Nunez appreciates how hard his team has worked during the early part of the season.

“I’m looking forward to the process and getting better every day,” he said. “After just two weeks of working with this group of athletes, it is clear how motivated and hungry they are.”

Tim Sorota can be reached at tsorota@umass.edu.

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