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SMC Tennis: Belles get off to rough start

Luke Mansour | Monday, February 15, 2010

The Belles expected a battle heading into their season-opening match against non-conference opponent Case Western. Unfortunately, a seasoned Spartans team proved to be too much for the Belles to handle.

Saint Mary’s (0-1) kicked off its season on a sour note, dropping its first dual meet to Case Western (1-0) by a score of 7-2 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

A slow start doomed the Belles’ hopes for a victory. Despite the tough loss, the Belles gained valuable experience by playing such a tough team early in the season.

“I think that we can take a lot from the competitive match we had against Case Western,” senior Camille Gebert said. “It will be a matter of adjusting to stronger teams like Case Western if we want to bring our play up a notch.”

Junior Jillian Hurley agreed with Gebert’s assessment of the match.

“Although Case Western was such a tough team, it was beneficial to play them because playing more challenging teams can help raise our games to a higher level,” she said.

The Belles’ lone victories came from the No. 4 and No. 5 singles positions, where juniors Franca Peluso and Mary Therese Lee managed close wins over their Spartan counterparts. After winning the first set 7-5, Peluso jumped out to a 4-1 lead over her opponent Corey Bowen. Bowen cut the deficit to 4-3, but Peluso held on for a 6-3 victory in the second set.

At the No. 5 singles position, Lee cruised in the first set en route to a 6-1 victory. The second set was a back-and-forth affair before Lee was finally able to emerge victorious 7-5. It marked the first collegiate win for the junior.

“At the bottom half [of the lineup], our team really battled and had closer scores,” Gebert said. “I don’t think that the overall final score of our loss was a good reflection of how we played or how we felt out on the court.”

The Belles started slow as they were swept at all three of the doubles positions. The Belles’ top two players, Gebert and Hurley, struggled as they fell at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions. Hurley fell 6-1, 6-3 while Gebert suffered a 6-0, 6-0 defeat.
Still, at such an early point in the season, players were eager to stress the positives that came out of the match.

“It was incredibly beneficial to start off the season with a tough match because it showed us that although we lost, we can keep up with teams at that level,” Hurley said. “I think despite our loss, all of us improved in some way from the match.”

The Belles will now turn their attention to the end of the week when they face NAIA opponent Olivet-Nazarene in a home dual meet. The Belles hope to continue to use the non-conference matches as a solid tune-up prior to the start of their conference schedule.

“We will need to be ready to play from the start of the match, and we need to take advantage of any opportunities to gain early points with doubles,” Gebert said. “We need to focus less on the result and more on improvement in general during our non-conference matches.”

“Hopefully, [the Case Western match] will push everyone to step up for next week’s match and reach that higher level,” Hurley said.

The match is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.