Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutewomen to battle Mother Nature in home opener

By Nick Canelas

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After inclement weather washed away the opening match against Providence this weekend, the Massachusetts tennis team will kick off dual match play against Connecticut on Wednesday at the Mullins Courts.

Alex Mojcher/Collegian

Alex Mojcher/Collegian

The Minutewomen were anticipating their season opener to take place this past Saturday, Oct. 1, against Providence, but the rain forced the match to be pushed to the following day. Unfortunately, the weather refused to hold up and no match was played this weekend.

UMass will finally get the opportunity to begin its season when it hosts the Huskies, who are also participating in their first match of the season.

The Minutewomen have thrived against the Huskies in recent years, reeling off eight-straight victories over the last eight seasons, including a 6-1 rout last season.

The last defeat for the Minutewomen at the hands of UConn dates all the way back to 2002, where the Huskies came out on top, 5-2, in Storrs, Conn.

Since that defeat, UMass has been in complete command of the rivalry, and looks to build upon that success when the two teams get together this week.

“I think that we match up pretty well against UConn for all sorts of reasons,” said UMass coach Judy Dixon. “We had just seen them at the West Point tournament where we fared better than they did, so I think it gives us a little bit more confidence going into the match.”

Although the past few seasons have shown an imbalance of power in the rivalry heavily weighing in the favor of the Minutewomen, the two squads are similar in a number of ways.

With each team possessing only one senior on their respective rosters, both UMass and UConn appear to be in the midst of a rebuilding stage.

The Minutewomen are expected to go with reigning 1st-team Atlantic-10 All-Conference player Yuliana Motyl as their primary scoring threat, thanks in large part to her strong performance last year against the Huskies.

At No. 2 will be transfer Sonia Bokhari, who will be looking to make a strong first impression in her first regular season match as a member of the UMass squad. She will be followed by Julia Comas, who was named to the Atlantic-10 All-Conference 2nd team last season.

Expected to take the No. 4 slot will be standout sophomore Jessica Podlofsky, who last week was named UMass Athlete of the Week. She has proved to be unstoppable thus far, boasting a perfect 8-0 record in singles play in the early stages of the season.

The No. 5 spot is set to go to freshman Chanel Glasper, who has also proven to be a force for the Minutewomen. A mere two weeks into her tennis career at UMass, Glasper has made an immediate impact, holding a 7-1 record, which includes a championship crown from the Eastern Collegiate invitational. The Minutewomen will be looking for her to build upon her promising performance in the preseason tournaments, and have it translate onto the court with the start of dual match play.

Rounding out the singles field at No. 6 is expected to be junior Jocelyn Providence, while the doubles field is still yet to be determined.

Although a young team, the Huskies do present a pair of talented players that could really challenge the Minutewomen.

The UConn squad is led by freshman Maxene Weinberg, who came out victorious in her consolation flight at the West Point Invitational. Senior Alexa Gregory could also pose a significant threat to the Minutewomen. Gregory played a tough match against Podlofsky at West Point, pushing her to the brink of a loss but coming up short in the end.

The Minutewomen will head into this match as heavy favorites based on their success in preseason play, as well as their historic success against the Huskies. However, UMass could be plagued by a couple of key factors.

First, the Minutewomen have been bit hard by injuries in the early stages of the season. Freshman Hazuki Onaga is out for the fall season due to injury, while Chantal Swiszcz is doubtful for Wednesday’s match due to tendonitis in her wrist.

With Mother Nature postponing the start of dual match play for UMass this past weekend, early in the week, the team planned to deal with inclement weather during Wednesday’s match.

While on Monday, the weather forecast predicted Wednesday to be a gloomy day in Amherst, with up to 20 mile-per-hour winds, the weather report as of yesterday suggested Wednesday afternoon will have clear skies and sunny conditions with only a 10 percent chance of rain.

“Weather like this can hurt the team that is favored because it serves as a great equalizer,” said Dixon earlier in the week. “The edge now goes to the team with the better footwork.”

With all the hard work her team has put in during the preseason, Dixon believes that the team with the better footwork is her UMass Minutewomen.

“We haven’t taken any weekends off, and we’ve been working them hard,” said Dixon. “I think they want to get on the court and play a match, that’s for sure.”

Nick Canelas can be reached at [email protected].

 

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