Minutewomen seek revenge with Rams

By Chris Shores

Coming off of two consecutive victories to open the season, the Massachusetts tennis team is ready to begin conference play with a home match against Rhode Island today at 2 p.m.

While UMass coach Judy Dixon wants the Minutewomen (2-0) to focus on what lies ahead, she cannot help but reflect on the last time the teams met: a 4-3 loss to the Rams (3-0) in Amherst last April.

“It was heartbreaking,” Dixon said. “For them, it was probably one of the best wins in their school history. They’re going to come in [this year] with more confidence, and it’s up to us to stop them.”

In the spring contest, URI won critical singles matches in the 1, 3, 5 and 6 matchups. UMass was playing without the full use of star Magdalena Ploch, who was only able to compete in doubles that day. Dixon is hoping that having Ploch play twice this year will help swing the score in their favor.

Most of the Rams who played in the April match are back again.

“This team is clearly the best they’ve ever had,” Dixon said. “They fight hard and get a lot of balls back. We have to prepare to play long points.”

Dixon said winning the doubles point, which has yet to be a problem for the Minutewomen, is critical in securing a win. She also said she is looking for everyone playing singles to step up.

“We now have two matches behind us. We should be ready to play,” Dixon said.

While both teams are undefeated, the Rams have showed complete dominance this year. They have swept all three of their matches and have lost only one set.

The Minutewomen managed to hang on for a 4-3 win last week against Connecticut, despite several “mental errors.”  Dixon has worked on improving the “mental toughness” of her team in practice the past two days, dedicating a portion of time toward drills and “playing for points.”

The team has also worked on drills to improve shot selection.

“We’ve been hitting the ball too much down the middle of the court,” Dixon said of the team’s play so far this fall. “We want to open the court up more.”

The lineup for the Minutewomen will look the same as it did in the UConn match.

Maude Lecluyse and Candynce Boney will take on Kirsten and Tristany Leikem in the No. 1 doubles. The Rams twin duo lost to Tanisha Hodgson and Magdalena Ploch 8-3 last year. The Leikems are undefeated this year but have not been so dominant as two of their victories came in the form of hard-fought matches, 8-4 and 8-5.

Juniors Christen Cadigan and Brooke Hoover will represent URI in the No. 2 doubles against Ploch and Julia Comas.

Amanda Barletta and Pam Emery lost their doubles match at UMass last year. They will try to turn that around in the No. 3 matches versus Hodgson and Kaitlyn Carpenter.

Carpenter suffered an injury in the UConn match but has been cleared by the trainer to compete according to Dixon. She’ll need to rehab but will be playing in both the singles and doubles matches today.

Kirsten Leikem, who was able to pull out a singles win last year against Boney, will take on Ploch in the No. 1 singles match.

Emery was also victorious in singles in the April match, but to do so again, she will have to get through Julia Comas. The rookie has yet to run into any trouble so far this season.

Boney will take on Tristany Leikem in the No. 3 singles match and Lecluyse will face off versus Cadigan in No. 4 singles play.

The No. 5 singles match will be another key one for Carpenter, who won two matches in last year’s contest. Her opponent will be Barletta who was victorious last year in a three-set hard-fought singles match.

Hodgson will take on Hoover in the No. 6 singles match. Hoover has won all of her sets this year, sweeping four of them.

Dixon wants to see some better results from her No. 4-6 singles players, all of whom suffered losses in last week’s match.

Following this match, UMass will go nearly two weeks without a competitive match. The Minutewomen were originally scheduled to host Fordham Friday, but that game has been postponed due to impending inclement weather.

The following Monday, UMass planned to travel to Albany, but that game has also been postponed due to cold temperatures.

Three Minutewomen will travel to New Haven, Conn. the following weekend to compete in the ITA Regional Championship at Yale. Each team is allowed to bring one singles player and one doubles team. Representing UMass will be Ploch and the dynamic duo of Lecluyse and Boney. They will be competing against the “best of the best in the region,” said Dixon.

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected]