Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass tennis sweeps another pair of weekend matchups

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Ana Yrazusta prepares to hit the ball (Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Ana Yrazusta prepares to hit the ball (Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

This year’s Massachusetts women’s tennis team has been a force so far this season at any site but has risen to another occasion on its home court.

In its second Atlantic 10 Conference matchup of the season, UMass (7-3) defeated Saint Louis Sunday afternoon at the Bay Road Tennis Club, 5-2. The victory lifted the Minutewomen to a 5-0 record at home, continuing a long tradition of home-court dominance for UMass, which hasn’t lost in Amherst since 2010 against Boston College.

But the Minutewomen were tested by Saint Louis (6-3), which is a year removed from an A-10 finals appearance.

“Saint Louis flew here to play us,” said coach Judy Dixon, emphasizing the importance of the in-conference matchups for tournament seeding at season’s end. “They’re quite good. … They were prepared for our courts.”

With the match locked up at two points apiece, UMass junior Arielle Griffin won a crucial three-set match over Natalia Yacaman in the No. 3 singles slot, (3-6, 6-2, 7-5). It was Griffin’s 11th singles victory of the season and her seventh in her last 10 matches.

“Arielle Griffin played an unbelievable match that could have gone either way,” Dixon said. “That match was really the key for us because once (Griffin) won and we were up 3-2, I knew that Carol Benito, who has been playing great for us, I knew she could bring it home.”

And bring it home she did.

Matching up against the Billikens’ Brooke Urzendowski, Benito cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 straight set victory securing the sixth win in seven matches for the Minutewomen.

The duo of Ana Yrazusta and Benito then won the No. 1 doubles match for the seventh straight time, defeating St. Louis’ Madison Cook and Aspen Cervin (8-7). Yrazusta and Benito now boast a remarkable 17-4 doubles record this season. But the Billikens rebounded, winning the other two doubles to secure the doubles point.

“We were in a hole going into the singles,” Dixon said. “I still said that I think we can win this match 5-2 but I had not thought we would lose the doubles point so it was gonna be a little bit tougher.”

As a welcome consolation, sophomore transfer Brittany Collens, who is also a staff member at the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, bolstered the victory at the No. 6 spot, winning her 10th match of the year in another hard-fought three-set contest against SLU’s Maria Toro, (7-5, 3-6, 10-7).

“Saint Louis came out and gave us everything they had,” Dixon said. “It was like a prize fight; they were punching and punching and punching at us, and we were taking everything they could give us and then all of a sudden we started punching back …When I got home last night, I had two or three people text me and say it was one of the finest college tennis matches they’d ever seen.”

Serving a shutout

With the all-important A-10 showdown against the Billikens looming on Sunday, the Minutewomen needed to avoid a letdown match against Providence (4-5) on Friday in Rhode Island. They proved up to the task, defeating the Friars 7-0.

“I was very pleased,” Dixon said. “It was a (6 p.m.) match which is a hard time to play … but they played well and we got out of there unscathed.”

With normal No. 1 singles player Aarzoo Malik resting in order to recover from a flu virus she contracted early in the season, Yrazusta shined in the top spot, defeating Nicole Cyterski, (6-1, 6-3). Yrazusta won each of her singles and doubles match from the weekend, pushing her singles winning streak to seven.

Senior captain Chanel Glasper dominated in a 6-0, 6-0 win over the Friars’ Amanda Pitocco. The win was Glasper’s 71st career singles victory, just three shy of 2014 graduate Jessica Podlofsky’s UMass record.

With eight matches left before the A-10 championships, Glasper has a legitimate shot at breaking Podlofsky’s mark, set just one year ago.

The challenge for the Minutewomen now shifts toward maintaining this momentum through a long layover. UMass will not return to competition until after spring break when they travel to Charleston, South Carolina to take on Samford on March 17.

Arthur Hayden can be reached at [email protected]

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