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SMC Tennis: Belles try to avenge first conference loss

Joe Meixell | Friday, March 31, 2006

Coming off its first conference loss, Saint Mary’s will have a chance to get back in the win column when it takes on Olivet Nazarene at 2 p.m. today and Wheaton College at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Jack Schwarz Memorial Classic Tournament in Wheaton, Ill.

As this weekend’s tournament is sandwiched between conference matches, the Belles players will have a brief reprieve from the pressure of the conference schedule. The team hopes to put that break to good use, senior Kristen Palombo said.

“Tournaments like this take the pressure off for a little while because we know that no matter what happens, it won’t affect our conference standing,” Palombo said. “We’re able to try new things in these matches, and we’re able to work on parts of our game that we might not be comfortable using in conference matches.”

Saint Mary’s will still be taking this weekend’s matches seriously, though, and will be facing some difficult competition. Olivet Nazarene has won two NAIA Region III-VII Championships and made three NAIA National Tournament appearances since 2001. This year, Olivet Nazarene boasts a 3-1 record, having won their last three matches.

Wheaton will present an even greater challenge for the Belles, as they enter this weekend with a record of 6-0 and are currently ranked No. 18 in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

In addition, two of Wheaton’s players are ranked in the region.

Freshman Jordan Hook is currently the No. 5 player in the central region, and she comes into this weekend with an unblemished record of 19-0.

Senior Elizabeth Maclellan, a two-time winner of the CCIW Player of the Year award, is currently the No. 2 player in the central region.

The team, however, sees the benefits of playing against such strong competition.

“No matter what happens regarding the outcome, it makes you a better player,” Palombo said. “You have to try harder, come up with shots you didn’t know you had, and you have to expand your game.”