MONROEVILLE, Pa. - The Franciscan University women's tennis team proved too much for Penn State Altoona on Saturday, registering a 5-2 victory that places them in tomorrow's championship match.
After an extensive warm-up period, the Lady Barons took the courts to begin doubles. From the get-go, it appeared as though No. 2 doubles pairing Madelyn Conrad and Grace Hammel had something to prove. Their 8-3 victory over their opponents fully represents their commanding style of play. Up 4-3, Hamel and Conrad won the next four games to give the Lady barons the 1-0 lead overall.
In a similarly dominant fashion, junior Maggie Vander Woude and sophomore Taranee Karimpour went to work on their No. 3 doubles opponents. Again, the sophomore's deep groundstrokes, particularly on the forehand side, allowed her junior partner to make quick work of short returns. Their 8-2 win gave Franciscan the 2-0 lead.
In a testament to the depth of the Lady Barons' team, it would be the back half of the lineup which would come up big for Franciscan. First off the court for FUS was Vander Woude; the junior cut her opponent's points short, dominant the net on her way to a 6-1, 6-0 victory at No. 5 singles.
Close behind her was senior Claire Haddad. The upperclassman served well through two strong sets, clinching the fourth overall point for the Lady Barons with a 6-2, 6-2 win.
Binette kept her match a competitive one, rallying shot for shot with a tough No. 2 singles opponent. However, it was Penn State Altoona which walked away from the court victorious, 6-3, 6-2.
Despite the loss, the bottom half of the lineup never wavered in their dominance of their respective opponents. Said assistant coach Scott Greve, "It's a testament to our lineup that we can start underclassmen at one, two and three singles, and have experience at four through six. That was a key for us today."
Senior Erin Coyne was the lucky one on the court, as with all eyes on her No. 6 singles match, she clinched the fifth and decisive point of the day for the Lady Barons. She played an emotional match, as her opponent attempted desperately to recover from a 5-2 deficit in the second set, before Coyne put the brakes on a potential upset and solidified the Lady Barons' place in the next day's finals.
Assistant coach Shannon Irvin said the senior were crucial in today's victory. "Once Maggie came off the court in record time, our attention turned to the two seniors on the court, who were both up a set at the time. You always hope they pull it out, and today they did."
Once the fifth point was reached, play was stopped on the surrounding courts. Hammel had surrendered the first set 6-3 at No. 3 singles but was showing signs of life in the second, tied 2-2. At No. 1 singles, Conrad was a point away from leveling the match at one set apiece, up 5-4 in the second set after losing the first, 6-2.
"This is what you prepare for all season, to go into tomorrow's match with a good win" said Irvin. She said the victory was a testament to the mental toughness the Lady Barons have displayed since their first match of the season.
Added Greve: "Ditto."
After the match, the Lady Barons travelled a short distance to volunteer at a local halfway-house for orphans and young adults. Facility coordinator Barbara Rogers thanked Franciscan University's women's team profusely for their efforts, which included cleaning, re-organizing office spaces, and spending time with those present. Irvin commented that "My heart is happy that we got to win and that we were able to volunteer."
The Lady Barons next turn their attention to their final opponent of the fall: Penn State Behrend, who today recorded a 5-1 victory over La Roche College. The AMCC Championship match will be held on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. in Monroeville, PA.