One Step at a Time - Mace and Crown
Virginia Commonwealth University women’s tennis put the “pedal to the metal” Saturday afternoon, smashing the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs 6-1 at the Folkes-Stevens Tennis Center.
Following a week that included dominate victories over Bucknell and Colgate, the Lady Monarchs fall to 9-6 on the year, all the while trying to achieve a level of consistency going into the final portion of the season.
Right from the beginning, VCU smacked ODU senseless, snagging the doubles point with a pair of 8-1 wins, which nonetheless proved to be fuel for the Rams’ engine going forth throughout the afternoon.
The momentum carried over into singles play as VCU’s Yukako Noi accelerated to a 5-0 first set lead when ODU defaulted. Shortly after, Salome Kvitashvili bullied through Nika Khmolovska 6-4, 6-1, facilitating what would be a chain of dominating victories for the Rams.
While the majority of matches were completed rather swiftly, the treat of the day for the Lady Monarchs came in the form of Diana Ivanova, capturing a thrilling 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Josefin Hjertquist.
Early on, Hjertquist applied pressure to Ivanova through aggressive baseline play, baiting Ivanova into committing numerous errors. Down 4-1 in the first set, Ivanova suffered an injury, prompting a medical timeout to be called. Despite the setback in the first set, Ivanova roared back through a mix of crafty net-play and forehand stability through rallies, garnering the second set 6-4. In the third set, Ivanova’s use of clever dropshots and prowess around the baseline left her opponent dazed and confused, sealing the match with a quick 6-2 third set.
While the Rams shined radiantly in all aspects of their game, Lady Monarchs head coach Dominic Manilla referenced that it was the Rams experience and maturity that proved to be the overwhelming factor in their victory over ODU. “Everything we threw at them they countered really well,” said Manilla. “They are very good and simply showed that they are a very mature team.”
Departing from the Colonial Athletic Association in favor of the Atlantic 10, the Rams look to have settled in with ease, achieving a record of 14-4 thus far. While the squad will garner new experiences against formidable opponents, head coach Paul Kostin is confident that his team can hold their own against any challenge presented to them. “We’re in a different conference and we hope to win it,” Kostin said. “We’re playing a good schedule and the girls are ranked, so we just got to keep it going and stay healthy.”
Since blazing through the opposition en route to four straight wins to start the year, the Lady Monarchs have struggled somewhat since then, winning only five of their last 11 contests since then. While having to deal with a slew of injuries that can “bruise” a team’s demeanor, confidence, and performance, coach Manilla firmly assures that his team will never succumb to such. “I think we’re tough,” Manilla said. “We just have to do what we can to stay healthy. Tennis is a long season and if we can stay healthy winding down into the last two months of the season we’ll be fine.”
By: Eric Guy