UMass tennis going out in style

By Christopher Marino

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts tennis team ended the regular season in style on Sunday afternoon in Bronx, New York.

The Minutewomen cruised to their ninth straight win with a 6-1 victory over Fordham and delivered Dixon her 302nd win with the program in their regular season finale.

“It seems to have gone very fast,” said Dixon, now in her 24th season at UMass. “I remember each team as they come through, there hasn’t been one team that is more special than the others, we had some years where we struggled a bit but I still thought that we really had made some strides in growing the program into a very big contender in the conference and nationally.”

“I don’t remember all 300 of those wins, but I certainly remember each team…that’s what has made it more special to me, not the wins but the student athletes that have come through the program.”

After a brief moment of nostalgia, Dixon returned to the task at hand and talked about her team’s growth after a slow start to the season.

“We are a team that the more we play the better we get,” Dixon said. “Historically, that has been true for us. There are some teams that need to rest and come back refreshed, we need to play.”

After getting off to a 5-6 start, the Minutewomen (14-6, 3-0 Atlantic 10) have rattled off nine straight victories in a row to conclude the regular season. For their coach, a lot of that success can simply be attributed to getting more reps on the court against good competition.

The rigorous schedule has led to an advantage in fitness versus their competition, according Dixon.

“Our fitness levels are very good, and that showed up in Charleston when it was hot and we were playing three set matches,” she said. “If you look at our three-set match record over the year, we are above 60 percent in winning those, and that I think has to do with fitness.”

The Minutewomen won three of those matches on Sunday, with Ruth Crawford (7-6, 6-7, 10-2), Ana Yrazusta (6-3, 4-6, 6-0) and Arielle Griffin (6-7, 6-2, 6-2) each fighting through to earn victories in singles play.

“I think the confidence comes from (winning three set matches),” Dixon said. “What we can struggle back or hang in or pull it out in the end… That gives you confidence when you get to the end of a close match knowing that you’ve done that before.”

Minutewomen cruise to easy win on Senior Day

In the final home match of the season, and of the career for graduating seniors Carol Benito and Arielle Griffin, the Massachusetts tennis team dominated Rhode Island 7-0 in Amherst on Thursday.

Keyed by strong starts across the board, the Minutewomen won every single set of the match and each of the first sets by a minimum margin of 6-2.

“Letting our seniors go out on a high note is always great,” Dixon said. “I think it was wonderful for them, but better than that they’ve got bigger fish to fry, they’re looking ahead to this coming weekend.”

Griffin won her No. 2 singles match 6-2, 3-2 as her opponent, Taylor Holden, retired in the third set. Meanwhile, Benito won her match versus URI’s Ariel Haber 6-1, 6-0, only giving up a single point.

It was the eighth straight win for UMass, but Dixon said the winning streak isn’t something the team is paying attention to.

“I’m not sure that they think about it that much,” Dixon said. “I mostly think about getting better every day and I mostly think about what’s going to happen April 22-24.”

While the winning streak has given the Minutewomen a great record for the year, the focus remains on the A-10 Championship meet, as it has all year.

“I said to them this morning that they’ve had a good year, but I don’t think that they think it’s enough.”

The A-10 Championship will be played this Thursday through Sunday and will take place in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Chris Marino can be reached at [email protected]