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SMC Tennis: Belles steal final four matches for 5-4 rally

Greg Arbogast | Thursday, April 13, 2006

In its most important contest of the season, Saint Mary’s won the final four matches to earn a dramatic comeback victory over Kala-mazoo Wed-nesday at the Saint Mary’s Tennis Center.

With sole possession of third place in the MIAA on the line, things did not look promising early for the Belles as Kalamazoo sprinted out to a 4-1 lead by winning two of three doubles matches and the first two singles matches.

The Saint Mary’s duo of Mary Elizabeth Campbell and Tara O’Brien beat the Hornets pairing of Geneva Garcia and Lindsay Zuhlker 6-1, 6-3 in the first match off the courts. But the momentum shifted toward Kalamazoo in the final two doubles matches.

The Belles doubles teams of Kristen Palombo and Grace Gordon, and Kelly McDavitt and Calie Mulcahy both had their doubles matches last for over two hours and end in third-set defeats by the scores of 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-3, and 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, respectively.

But rather than pack it in, the Belles used the long matches to their advantage.

“We all wanted to make up for our losing our doubles matches,” Palombo said. “The fact that our doubles matches went for over two hours – and then we had to turn around and our play singles matches in 10 minutes – really tested our conditioning.”

After losing their doubles matches, Palombo and her teammates used that conditioning to rally the team to victory. Palombo, McDavitt and Mulcahy rebounded from their losses to capture straight-set victories in singles.

With the victory of the Belles’ Melissa Dingler over Kalamazoo senior Rashelle Shalimi, Saint Mary’s came from behind for the 5-4 victory.

“We all had a pretty good handle of our singles matches,” Palombo said. “The fact that we were able to win such a long match really showed us that all our hard work had paid off. I think we were in better shape than them.”

After the long doubles matches, the Belles needed minimal time to dispatch of Kalamazoo in the singles contests.

Palombo defeated the Hornets’ Megan Fink 6-3, 6-3, McDavitt topped Laura Spencer 6-4, 6-0 and Mulcahy beat the Hornets’ Smita Gudipati 6-4, 6-3 to complement Dingler’s win.

Wednesday’s victory brings Saint Mary’s record to 10-6 overall and 5-1 in the MIAA. It also gives the Belles sole possession of third place in the league.

With Saint Mary’s next match at conference leader Albion Tuesday at 3 p.m., the team will have an opportunity to climb further up the conference standings.

“Our win over Kalamazoo really gives us a lot of confidence,” Palombo said. “Hopefully we can use it as momentum because we’ll need to keep our strong performance going when we play Albion.”