Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass tennis rallies past St. Johns to give Red Storm first loss of season

By Christopher Marino

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(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

In the Massachusetts tennis team’s most resilient performance of the season to date, the Minutewomen fought through adversity to defeat St. Johns 4-3 Sunday morning in Amherst to give the Red Storm their first loss of the season.

With UMass (3-4) down 3-1 and St. Johns (2-1) needing just one point to clinch the match, Aarzoo Malik won the No. 3 singles match in a nearly two-hour back and forth contest to keep the Minutewomen alive. Malik took the first set 6-3, while her St. Johns counterpart Olaya Inclan rallied to win the second set 4-6. In the third and final set, Malik prevailed with a 7-5 win to secure the point.

Following Malik’s momentum-swinging win, Arielle Griffin and Carol Benito jumped into action in the No. 5 and 6 singles matches. Benito tied the match at 3-3 with a 6-4, 6-1 win, Griffin clinched the UMass victory with her 7-5, 6-4 win over St. Johns’ Stephanie Elgegren.

“St. Johns is a very good team,” coach Judy Dixon said. “We are a team that knows how to finish, and today we weren’t far from losing. Every person competed well. We knew this was going to be a 4-3 match and it was going to be tough, and it was exactly that.”

Following a difficult start to the season that saw the Minutewomen go into the weekend with an 0-3 record, Dixon stressed the importance of the weekend matches in terms of the team’s development.

“We played well and we needed this weekend to show who we are, and this team came into their own,” Dixon said. “We really needed it and we competed well today.”

As for what allowed the improved result, Dixon said it was all about the Minutewomen’s level of competitiveness.

“The difference is the competitiveness,” Dixon explained. “We cut down on a lot of the errors and easy points and played well as a team.”

Matches of this kind can serve as a catalyst for a team’s progression throughout the season, as the optimistic Dixon touched on repeatedly.

“Would I rather win 7-0 like yesterday or 4-3 today? Today. One thousand times today. The passion matters, the heart matters. These are the matches I live to coach.”

UMass returns home to sweep Long Island University Brooklyn 7-0

In the Minutwomen’s first home match of the spring season, UMass got back on track with a 7-0 sweep of LIU Brooklyn (0-2) on Saturday afternoon to earn their first victory of the spring.

After falling in their last three matches versus Cornell, Brown and Boston College, a strong return to Amherst was much needed for the previously struggling Minutewomen.

“With LIU, I think we were happy to get home,” Dixon said. “The only team we have lost to at home in the last three years is Boston College, so we’re a very good home team and certainly hold an advantage there.”

Although the quality of play in the 7-0 sweep was appreciated, Dixon said the match was more about getting acclimated to home court and snapping a streak of three losses in a row to start the spring season.

“LIU gave us a chance to come home and get back on track,” Dixon said.

Despite the slow start to the spring, the weekend reaffirmed how good UMass can be, and Dixon wasn’t shy about the team’s expectations for the rest of the season.

“Anything less than a conference championship is a disappointment for us,” Dixon said bluntly.

The Minutewomen will look to keep up their positive momentum next Saturday, when they travel to West Point, New York to play both Army and St. Bonaventure.

Chris Marino can be reached at [email protected]

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