STEUBENVILLE - The Franciscan University women's team wrapped up conference play with a commanding 7-2 win over conference opponent Pitt.-Greensburg on Sunday, despite difficult weather for the majority of the afternoon.
Back to their strongest lineup after the busy schedule of the previous week saw head coach Jeremy Ellis rest his starters, doubles took the courts just after 2:00 p.m. under cloudy skies. Freshmen Madelyn Conrad and Grace Hammel continued their style of aggressive play, registering an 8-1 score over their No. 2 opponents to remain undefeated in conference doubles for the year.
One court over, junior Maggie Vander Woude and sophomore Taranee Karimpour produced an identically dominant score, with an 8-1 win at No. 3 doubles. Once again riding the consistency of Karimpour's groundstrokes, Vander Woude found plenty of opportunities to finish points at the net, encouraged by her family in the bleachers. Karimpour and Vander Woude are now 11-1 on the year as a pair.
Singles play commenced as the sky blackened. Not a single match had reached the conclusion of its first set before weather made for unplayable conditions; a rain delay followed, lasting approximately forty minutes in length. Ellis inspected the integrity of the courts, then allowed singles play to begin again, and the Lady Barons responded well to the break.
After her close doubles loss, Binette took full advantage of the opportunity to return to form. Her 6-4 first set was a hard-fought display of tenacity and grit; despite fighting from behind for a large part of the second set, the sophomore hit her shots when they mattered most, and was rewarded with a 7-5 second set, and a match win.
Binette was cheered on by several teammates who had previously concluded their own matches. Haddad and Vander Woude were among them, with decisive 6-0, 6-1 victories over their respective No. 4 and No 5 singles opponents.
Hammel saw the consistency of her backhand improve on her way to a 6-1, 6-0 victory, establishing her singles match as the fifth of the day to drop only one game.
Two tiebreak matches represented the final two matches on the courts. Conrad was broken multiple times and lost her first set 6-2, before regrouping, driving her groundstrokes deeper into the backcourt, and taking the second set 6-1. Tied 9-9 in the third-set tiebreak, Conrad's poise allowed her to pull out the win, 11-9.
Senior Erin Coyne, after winning her first set 6-3, suffered her first conference loss as a Lady Baron. Though he acknowledged her disappointment, Ellis spoke often on the sidelines as to the asset that Coyne has been to the team; a single conference loss, he said, could not invalidate how valuable she has been to a women's team which looks to return to the top of the AMCC during the playoffs to come.
Ellis, encouraged by the win, nevertheless maintains the understanding that they must deliver in the postseason. "Teams will be gunning for us" he said, "because we're the 1 seed." He said that focus will be vital for his young team down the road.
The Lady Barons next face West Liberty University on Saturday at 1:00pm, on the Bellview Park home courts.