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SMC TENNIS: Belles dominate, cruise to 9-0 win

Tim Dougherty | Tuesday, April 26, 2005

On the heels of two straight non-conference victories last week, Saint Mary’s shut out Olivet College 9-0 Monday to net its first conference win since defeating Tri-State by the same score on April 5.

The Belles dominated the Comets (9-10, 1-6 MIAA), taking all but one set in every match. In an otherwise flawless team performance, junior co-captain Kristen Palombo dropped her first set 6-1 before settling down and ripping off consecutive 6-1 victories to win the match.

“The girl had no pace on the ball, and usually you don’t get pushers in number one singles,” Palombo said. “But after I lost that first set I told myself, ‘You’re not going to lose the match.’ I was really happy I was able to comeback like that.”

For the second time in as many weeks, sophomore Armene Gavoor saw action, filling in sophomore Mary Beth Pavela’s No. 3 doubles slot due to Pavela’s late classes. Gavoor worked with sophomore teammate Tara O’Brien for the doubles victory, but Pavela made it back in time to play and win her singles match.

After rescheduling the match twice already this year, the third time proved to be a charm for the Belles, who coach Dee Stevenson said always enjoy their matches with the Comets – a team against whom the Belles have not lost since Stevenson took over the Saint Mary’s program in 2001.

“They are a nice team,” he said. “They have nice players, and a nice coach. It’s always a pleasure to play them.”

The win improves the Belles overall record to 7-9, while keeping them in fifth place in the MIAA at 2-4. More important than the numbers, though, Palombo said the win was able to instill the players with confidence – a feeling she has stressed throughout the year as a key to success.

“It’s good to have another one like this,” Palombo said. “It was really good to win 9-0. I definitely think we have some confidence back, and everyone is feeling really good.”

Stevenson also is pleased with the confidence level of the Belles right now.

“I can see it improving,” Stevenson said. “They have to keep up the wins, though. A loss can destroy that confidence real fast. That can be a fragile thing sometimes.”

Their next test is a home match Tuesday against Alma College (4-10), a team who shared the Belles 1-4 conference record going into their Monday match against winless Tri-State. Stevenson hopes to see the Belles post a similar performance against the Scots as they did Monday.

“They also beat Olivet, so it should be a little tougher than it was today,” he said. “But at least since I’ve been coach we’ve never lost to them.”

Palombo also looks for Monday’s success and confidence to carry into Tuesday’s regular season finale, as the squad turns its eyes to the MIAA tournament next weekend.

“We’re hoping to win,” she said, “and then it’s a matter of a getting as many people to win as possible, because it gets everyone’s confidence up. We can’t take away any of our matches, but we can still play to place higher for the conference tournament, so we have a lot of confidence going into it.”