Women’s tennis: Bears triumph in first home match in six months

| Sports Reporter

After being gone for a while, it was nice to be home for the Washington University women’s tennis team.

In its first match back in St. Louis in six months, the #14 Bears put together in a 6-3 victory over Graceland University on Saturday.

“It was nice to not have to be on a bus going hours to some place and not have bus legs,” sophomore Natalie Tingir said. “We were pretty fresh, and it was good.”

The freshness the Bears had was reflected in their play. In singles competition, Wash. U. won four of the five completed matches and was given a fifth win when Graceland conceded sixth singles.

Freshman Kate Klein and Tingir made quick work of Graceland’s Carolina Verdezorto and Valerie Avina at first and second singles, winning their respective matches 6-1, 6-0 and 6-0, 6-0. Junior Elise Sambol and freshman Paige Madara took third and fifth singles as well, with senior Grace Fox’s narrow 6-4, 6-3 loss being the only setback.

“Not really any one player stood out. We were all rallying each other, we all supported each other,” head coach Kelly Stahlhuth said. “We were also able to get most of the team out there to play, which was nice.”

Doubles was a bit tougher for the Bears, as both of the pairs that the Yellow Jackets were able to field took out their Bear counterparts. Junior Kalee Cassady and Madara went down 8-3 in first doubles, while Tingir and Fox—playing together for the first time with senior Allison Dender, Tingir’s usual partner, out for the weekend—were narrowly defeated 8-6 in second doubles.

Yet given the circumstances, the girls were happy with their play. “I think we did pretty well for our first time. I think we made a pretty good team,” Tingir said of working with Fox. “We were able to communicate pretty well. We were able to come back at the end and almost had them.”

Noteworthy was the fact that not only was this the first time the Bears were at home since the Wash. U. Invitational on Sept. 18-20, but the fact that in that invitational the Bears faced off against Graceland as well. Six months later, the team has noticed some improvement.

“We’ve been getting doubles teams to gel,” Stahlhuth said. “Basically we’re just more cohesive.”

“Everybody’s just been working really hard in practice,” Tingir said. “Especially during spring break, we just really focused on tennis. It was a really great experience and something that boosted our confidence and really helped us out.”

The Bears are back in action today as they face Lindenwood University at the Tao Tennis Center at 4:30 p.m.