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SMC TENNIS: Hope remains undefeated with 5-4 win over Belles

Tim Dougherty | Friday, April 8, 2005

The Flying Dutch of Hope College knocked off the Belles, 5-4, Thursday afternoon at Saint Mary’s to maintain first place in the MIAA with a 4-0 conference record.

Thursday marked the first time since 2000 that Saint Mary’s (3-6) lost to Hope (8-7), junior co-captain Kristen Palombo said. The loss dropped the Belles to fifth place in the conference at 1-1.

“Hope is the kind of team that’s always been in the top half of the conference,” Palombo said.

“We’ve been lucky in the past couple of years to close it out, but we lacked that today.”

Coach Dee Stevenson pointed to the Belles’ doubles play as the decisive factor in Thursday’s loss.

“I thought we needed to win two out of three doubles, and we only won one,” Stevenson said. Winning two would have taken the pressure off of singles play, which the team split, 3-3.

The highlight of singles play came from Palombo’s three-set victory over junior, and fellow No. 1 singles player, Anneliese Fox 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4 – handing Fox her first conference loss in three years, Stevenson said.

“I’m on cloud nine,” Palombo said. “This is one of those moments where you have to be proud of yourself. It’s the best I’ve played all year.”

Stevenson agreed.

“She normally plays very well, and today she played very smart,” she said.

“Kristen had a game plan going into the match. She followed the game plan.”

Palombo agreed with Stevenson that the execution of her game plan carried her to victory.

“We have the exact same scheme,” Palombo said of Fox. “We’re backboards. We make each other move around. She knows what I’m trying to do, and I know what she’s trying to do – and I was able to outlast her.”

The Belles’ biggest point earners on the day were sophomores Caile Mulcahy and Kelly McDavitt, who won their No. 2 doubles match as well as their singles matches.

Palombo was particularly impressed with McDavitt’s perseverance in her singles match, which she came back to win 0-6, 6-4, 6-0.

“Kelly played a great match,” Palombo said. “It was really great for her confidence because when you lose a match 6-0, it’s human nature to want to throw in the towel.”

Coach Stevenson credited McDavitt for her ability to make impromptu adjustments.

“We had to change the game plan in the middle of the match,” he said. “She did that, and it threw her opponent off.”

Though the loss dropped Saint Mary’s to the middle of the pack in the standings of the nine-team conference, Palombo remained optimistic towards the rest of the conference season, which the Belles have won two out of the last three years.

“We’re still a young team,” she said. “We have a lot of players getting more experienced. Hopefully these matches will teach us something.”

The Belles will have their next crack at a conference foe in their next game April 13 at Kalamazoo College (6-3, 2-1 MIAA).