UMass women’s tennis building on last year’s success

By Christopher Martinez

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Carol Benito prepares to hit the ball. Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Carol Benito prepares to hit the ball. Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

When the Massachusetts women’s tennis team last took the court, they left as runner ups in the Atlantic 10 Championship game after squaring off against Virginia Commonwealth University. Under Coach Judy Dixon, the Minutewomen finished their campaign with a 17-5 overall record.

Now the question is: how does UMass build upon one of the strongest seasons in program history?

First, the Minutewomen will have to account for the loss of senior captain Chanel Glasper, who managed to set a UMass record for career victories in singles competitions. The loss of leadership is no small blow, but this year’s squad is loaded with young talent eager to step up.

“Losing Chanel won’t be easy right off the bat, but we’ve made some notable additions to our squad. We approach every new season together, and the main aspect I’m looking to impart onto this year’s team is resiliency,” Dixon said.

UMass has always been a competitor within the A-10, usually going to the wire against the higher seeded teams within the conference.

Last year, Dixon’s squad appeared on its way to a conference championship before they lost in heartbreaking fashion to VCU. Entering the championship match, UMass needed to win its final four matches in order to prevail.

“We were winning all four of those matches, convincingly I might add, until we faced the worst luck we’ve ever had,” Dixon said,

That misfortune fell upon Glasper in the midst of the team’s fourth match, when she tore her Achilles tendon and was forced to give up. VCU needed only one win in the matchup in order to claim the title, so the Minutewomen were left in disbelief at just how close they came.

With last year fading into memory, this year’s squad looks ahead with determination towards the conference championships.

As part of its offseason, UMass has added transfers Laura Moreno and Ruth Crawford, both skilled players expected to make an immediate impact.

Every year the squad goes through intensive pre-season preparations, but this year Dixon implemented a new focus on conditioning.

“The girls practice six days a week, getting used to rhythm and timing while also gaining back their chemistry,” she said. “Conditioning takes place three days out of the week, because we are really looking for our goals to be physical this year.”

UMass is always one of the more talented teams in the division, but after going toe-to-toe with VCU, the Minutewomen believe they can be great this year.

The team’s strength comes from its depth, as all the members of their roster compete at a high level and are ready to fill in and impress.

Another key attribute of this year’s squad is the level of its doubles play. The Minutewomen’s top doubles duo from a season ago, sophomore Ana Yrazusta and senior Carol Benito, was recently ranked fourth in the final ITA Northeast Regional Rankings. This was the highest ranking in program history for UMass.

“There isn’t a position that I feel we can’t win at – we always play eight strong,” Dixon said.

The Minutewomen’s first competition of the year will see them travel to Providence for the Brown Invitational, where they will face off against the likes of Boston College, Boston University and St. Johns University.

Typically, during the fall season teams don’t compete at their highest level because national rankings are not affected, even though losses are still reflected in a team’s record. In the fall, teams are scheduled for invitational tournaments that allow them to gauge their weaknesses while also getting young players valuable in-game experience.“While we are always looking to win, this competition will help serve as a measuring stick for the team, we’ll find out where we are, where we can build, and see who wants to step up their play,” Dixon said.

The Brown Invitational will take place Sept. 25 and will run until Sept. 27.

Chris Martinez can be reached at [email protected]