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SMC Tennis: Belles prepared for MIAA tourney

Ellyn Michalak | Friday, April 27, 2007

After wrapping up its regular season with a win Monday, Saint Mary’s will travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., today for the start of the final tournament of the year – the MIAA conference tournament.

Earlier this week, the Belles (11-12, 5-3 MIAA) fell short in their final conference match of the season at the Eck Tennis Pavilion at Notre Dame. Albion dominated the Belles in both singles and doubles play, eventually defeating them 8-1.

“We put forth our best effort. Unfortunately, [Albion] was very strong and consistent,” senior captain Kelly McDavitt said. “We were not able to get the victory.”

The Belles hit the road last Monday, traveling to Grand Rapids, Mich., to play in a non-conference competition against Aquinas. After losing to Aquinas 5-4 in the last season, the Belles fought hard and avenged the loss, defeating the Saints 5-4. The Belles dominated in singles play, winning four of the six matches, while in doubles play, only the No. 3 duo of freshmen Lisa Rubino and Erin Kaplan managed to obtain a victory.

“We are looking forward to going to conference on Thursday,” McDavitt said. “We are going to use our recent experience with Albion and Aquinas from this week to get ready for conference play. We are going to use good match play to build teamwork and put forth our best effort in the tournament.”

The Belles entered last year’s MIAA tournament as the fourth seed. At the tournament, Saint Mary’s took fifth place and then earned fifth place in the final league standings. The last time the Belles won the tournament was in the 2004 season, when they entered it with a first-place seed.

As freshman at the 2004 MIAA tournament, Grace Gordon (with then-sophomore Kristen Palombo) took second-place in the No. 3 doubles spot. This year, as a senior, Gordon will compete in the No. 2 doubles spot to vie for similar honors.

In the 2005 MIAA tournament, the Belles finished in the top three spots in every singles match except No. 6 spot. In the 2006 MIAA tournament, then-junior Kelly McDavitt and senior Calie Mulcahy took second place at the No. 1 doubles spot. But that past individual success may not translate into this year’s tournament because of various rules changes to the event.

“The tournament is a different format this year,” Belles coach Dee Stevenson said. “This year, it is a team dual match tournament, while last year it was an individual competition.”

The Belles will again enter the tournament this year in the fourth seed. Despite the seeding and tough conference competition, Stevenson remained confident about her team’s chances.

“We never go into a match expecting to lose, so we’re going into the tournament in the fourth seed with a positive attitude and expecting to win,” she said.