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SMC TENNIS: Belles blue about loss to Maroons

Tim Dougherty | Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Belles dropped their match 6-2 to the Maroons of the University of Chicago Wednesday afternoon. Due to looming storms and the Maroons’ sizable lead, the last doubles match was cancelled.

Saint Mary’s coach Dee Stevenson said the match was more closely contested than the final score indicated.

“It could have gone either way,” Stevenson said. “We lost three really close matches. Possibly we could have been ahead 5-3 without having to play that last match.”

Playing Np. 6 singles due to the absence of injured sophomore Grace Gordon [torn ACL], fellow sophomore Mary Beth Pavela lost her first official match of the year in three grueling sets (6-4, 6-7, 6-7) – dropping the last two by tie breaking points.

Stevenson hopes that Pavela’s lengthy match, which lasted three and a half hours, will help her later on.

“It was a good experience for Mary Beth to get in a close match,” he said. “Next time she’ll know how to win it.”

Junior co-captain Kristen Palombo jumped ahead early in her number one singles match, taking the first set (6-3), but she lost the next two (2-6, 0-6).

Palombo’s No. 1 doubles match with senior partner Miranda Mikulyuk also came up short. After going to a tiebreaker, they lost (7-9).

The match was the first time this year Palombo and Mikulyuk had been doubles partners, as Gordon’s injury propelled Mikulyuk up to the number-one doubles position with Palombo.

“We played really well for the first match playing together,” Palombo said. “It came down to a couple of points. At one point we were winning (7-6).”

Stevenson said he did not see any signs of rust from the long gap between action for the Belles – who had not played since returning from their spring break trip to Orlando March 13 – because the layoff helped them work on strategies for doubles play.

One of the brightest spots of the match was the play of sophomore Kelly McDavitt, who was involved in both of the Belles’ victories. In addition to winning her number-four singles match in straight sets (6-4, 6-4), she and sophomore partner Caile Mulcahy defeated the Maroons’ number two doubles pair (8-2).

“They beat a ranked team that lost once all year,” Stevenson said. “And they beat them pretty bad.”

McDavitt credited their consistent play amid swirling winds as the key to their success. “We didn’t try to go for anything big,” she said. “We tried to hit a nice paced ball, and it ended up working out for us.”

McDavitt also lent praise to the support of her teammates for her singles victory.

“Our team was behind me,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d have pulled it off if I didn’t have the whole team out there supporting me.”

Despite some of Wednesday’s narrow losses, Stevenson believes that the mark of the program is the Belles’ success in close matches.

“Teams hate to play us,” he said. “We don’t give up, and we don’t quit. We usually win close matches. We didn’t today, but we usually win close matches.”

The Belles are slated to play Olivet College tomorrow at 3 p.m. to kick off their MIAA conference schedule. The match was originally scheduled for March 23 but cancelled due to poor weather conditions.

Palombo looks forward to the quick turnaround.

“We’re definitely excited about tomorrow’s match,” she said. “We’re anxious to get revenge – to comeback and play more solidly tomorrow.”