UMass tennis takes home two wins at Big Green Invitational

By Arthur Hayden

Julia Cardillo/Daily Collegian

Day 1 of the Big Green Invitational did not provide many highlights for the Massachusetts tennis team.

Matched up against the tournament host Dartmouth on the first day, the Minutewomen came away with only one victory, Jessica Podlofsky’s win over Julienne Keong (6-2, 5-7, 6-3).

The Big Green proceeded to dominate the weekend, dropping only five of their 32 matches across the three-day invitational. But UMass was also quick to recover. Despite their early struggles, the Minutewomen continued to battle over the next two days, securing team victories against the other two schools at the Invitational, Boston University and West Virginia University. It was a gritty performance, as UMass went 7-2 in matches that went to three sets.

Two of those seven three-set victories came from Podlofsky who, after defeating Keong onthe first day, won two more singles matches and added a doubles victory. Podlofsky is off to a strong start to her senior season and is rapidly approaching the program’s record for most career singles victories, needing one more victoriy to tie a title currently held by Michele Spiess at 67 wins.

“She’s been the spark plug of the team,” UMass coach Judy Dixon said. “She’s the grittiest player. Her game is a very tough game. You have to beat her, she doesn’t beat herself…She’s a real team leader, that’s for sure.
“She’s hitting the ball really well right now. She will break the record. It’s only a matter of which match she does that in.”

Podlofsky’s playing partner in doubles over the weekend, freshman Aarzoo Malik, did not have as much success on paper as Podlofsky, finishing 0-3 in singles play, including a tough three-set loss to Hailey Barrett of West Virginia (6-4, 6-7, 6-2). Dixon, however, is not worried about her fledgling star from New Delhi.

“She’s going to get better and better,” Dixon said of Malik. “This is a kid who really wants to close the gap between herself and the other players. She’s very driven to do so and she knows what she needs to do to do that. That bodes well for us for the winter-spring [seasons].”

Other bright spots of the weekend included two victories in No. 2 singles from senior Sonia Bokhari: a long grind of a match against Johanna Hyoty of BU (6-4, 3-6, 6-4) and yet another three-set win against Kaja Mrgole of WVU (6-1, 2-6, 6-2). Bokhari also teamed up with Chanel Glasper in No. 2 doubles to go 1-1 on the weekend, thanks to a nail-biting (8-7) victory against the Terriers’ pair of Kim McCallum and Barbara Rodriguez. Bokhari and Glasper have been the most productive doubles team for UMass during the fall season winning five of their eight matches together.

Dixon expressed her satisfaction with her team’s resiliency after their early difficulties.

“I was really pleased with not only our results but our competitiveness,” Dixon said. “Win or lose, I want them to compete well. I want them to be tough, get a lot of balls back, be smart and play well in pressure moments.”

She pointed to their great success in longer matches as evidence of the team’s ability to perform under pressure despite being a relatively young group.

The Big Green Invitational marked the end of the fall season for UMass tennis, which won both out-of-conference conference matches, first against Providence College and then Connecticut. UMass will resume competition and kick off its winter season against Brown in Hanover, N.H., on Jan. 31.

Arthur Hayden can be reached at [email protected]