by Jonathan Corral
Seeking their first conference victory of the year, the University of La Verne women’s tennis team ran into the reigning Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champions, Pomona-Pitzer and its lethal rackets and were nearly shut out as they were defeated 8-1 on Valentines Day in Claremont.
The Sagehens, who have won the last three SCIAC titles, kicked off their bid for a four-peat, wasting little time as they took the first seven matches of the contest.
The lone victory for the Leopards (1-3, 0-2) was recorded by junior Michelle Fontanez as she endured a grueling match with Laura Carlton, edging her out, 2-6, 7-5, (10-5) in the No. 5 singles match.
Starting things off, the Sagehens swept through three doubles matches putting the Leopards in an early hole.
In doubles action, the duo of Alisa Nadjazyan and Lacy Cascadden fell to defeat 8-1 at the hands of Kelli Howard and Whitney Henderson. Paige Hanawalt and Jessica Baker teamed up, but were defeated by Vicki Chen and Betsy Mork, 8-3. Rounding out doubles competition, singles match winner Fontanez and Michelle Tang lost to the combo of Brittany Biebl and Laura Carlton, 8-3.
“It was a real good match although we did not come away very satisfied,” Hanawalt said. “It was tough because Pomona is the defending conference champions, but I know we have more to offer as a team because of the fact that we are better competitors this year than last.”
On the singles side, Leopards’ ace Jessica Baker had her hands full with returning SCIAC Player of the Year Kelli Howard, losing 6-1, 6-0, which continued the Sagehens’ run.
“It is early in the season so I am working on getting into my own rhythm of playing matches,” Baker said. “I learned a lot from the match, some of the main things being about consistency and not letting myself get impatient.”
The rest of the day went Pomona’s way as it won the rest of the matches in an impressive fashion.
“As a team, we just need to work on the little things,” Baker said. “If we just keep working hard everything should be fine.”
Other players in action for the Leopards were Nadjazyan, who lost, 6-1, 6-1,to Mork. Tang lost her battle, 6-1, 6-0, to Henderson.
Caroline Franke lost, 6-0, 6-1, to Chen and finishing singles play was Desiree Whipperman, who was defeated, 6-2, 6-0, in her match with Molly Berman.
“Each match is a confidence builder,” Hanawalt said. “But ultimately, we will be a better team because of our team chemistry, hard work and coach Brian.”
Now well into February, the Leopards have the right team attitude and dedication to get them through the long season.
“Even though we lost the match, I feel a lot of positive things came out of it,” Tang said. Even when most of us were done with our matches, we stuck around and supported the rest of our team and I think that shows great chemistry which is good for the rest of the season.”
The Leopards resume SCIAC action against Occidental at 2 p.m. today at the Nancy Blickenstaff Tennis Pavilion and tomorrow versus Caltech in Pasadena.