Ladies split pair to open season

| Senior Sports Editor

The No. 15 Washington University women’s tennis team provided ample evidence that the University Athletic Association is one of the toughest conferences in Division III, with some hard fought battles. The Bears claimed a 7-2 victory over unranked Case Western Reserve University and an 8-1 loss to No. 4 University of Chicago over the weekend in their first action since the beginning of October.

The Bears (1-1) were felled on Sunday by the Chicago Maroons (5-1), who competed in the Division III Final Four last spring. Each of the Red and Green’s players from the top singles spot to the fifth singles spot lost in turn as they were swept in straight sets.

Junior Alex Cassady prevented a Maroon sweep by defeating Tiffany Nguyen 6-3, 6-4 at sixth singles. “The girls did much better than I thought we would considering it was their first real match back,” head coach Kelly Stahlhuth said.

Wash. U. had a much more competitive edge at doubles against the Maroons. In the first doubles slot, Wash. U. junior Karina Kocemba and freshman Kate Klein teamed up to take on the defending NCAA Division III doubles champions, Kendra Higgins and Chrissy Hu. Kocemba and Klein held a 4-1 advantage before the Bears fell 8-6. “We’d actually never played together before…she and I just communicate really well,” Klein said. “That gives a lot of hope for the future.” This story was repeated as both the Wash. U. second and third doubles pairs lost by the same margin.

Despite the losses, the first weekend of the spring season was successful, said sophomore Natalie Tingir, who couldn’t recall any previous competitions in which the scores were so close, and who credited the competitiveness to practice.

Stahlhuth also noted some strengths revealed during the weekend. “We have good cohesiveness as a team and good communication on the court,” she said.

Friday was a better day for the Red and Green as they traveled to Griffith, Ind., to face Case Western Reserve. The Bears came away with a 7-2 win, with a clean sweep in doubles play and a 4-2 record in singles. “We really go out there determined to win,” Klein said. “Nobody lets up.”

Kocemba and Klein downed Erika Lim and Emily Pham 8-6 at first doubles in the most competitive of the doubles sets. Juniors Jaclyn Bild and Elise Sambol teamed up to trounce Samantha Lewis and Kathleen Evers 8-2 in the second doubles spot. Senior captain Allison Dender and Tingir decisively defeated Cheyenne Chambers and Corey Bowen 8-0 at third doubles. Klein, Tingir, Dender and Sambol captured their singles points, with Tingir defeating Evers 6-0, 6-0 at fourth singles.

First singles versus Case proved to be the most spirited as Kocemba narrowly fell to Lewis 7-6 (7-4), 6-3. The UAA conference is one of the toughest in Division III, as half the conference is in the top 15—No. 3 being Emory, No. 4 Chicago and No. 6 Carnegie Mellon, with Wash. U. in 15th. “I’m really happy with who we have on the team, what personalities we have, the work ethic and how hard they work in the classroom,” Stahlhuth said. “We just have to keep trying to perfect that recipe.”

Though both Case Western Reserve and Chicago are also UAA rivals, these matches only count toward the school’s regional records.

The Bears return to action at 4 p.m. on Saturday against another nationally ranked squad, No. 11 DePauw University, at the King’s Point Racquet Club in Belleville, Ill.

“The fact that we’re so close in the standings really means a lot,” Tingir said. “A win against them would be really great.”