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SMC Tennis: Belles finish trip to Florida 3-4

McCabe, Patrick | Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The defending MIAA champion Belles opened their season in Orlando and finished 3-4 against a grueling slate of six teams in six days. The Belles defeated King’s College 9-0, Rochester 5-4 and Ursinus 9-0.

But the team fell to Division II-level St. Cloud State 4-5, Wittenberg 3-6, Carnegie-Mellon 0-9 and Wheaton 0-9.

“We played some really difficult teams. But it was nice to be challenged and get some confidence,” junior co-captain Kristen Palombo said. “The team performed really well and really stepped up. Half of the players were on their first collegiate spring break, but still did a good job and raised the team’s expectations.”

Fellow senior captain Miranda Mikulyuk was proud of how well the team performed.

“We played a few close matches that we wish we could have pulled out,” she said. “But we gelled as a team, and that’s what it really was all about. I feel we didn’t lose anything from our three seniors’ graduation last year. This team plays just as strong.”

The captains agreed that the doubles teams played well, particularly the new No. 1 and No. 3 pairs of Kelly McDavitt and Caile Mulcahy and Tara O’Brien and Mary Beth Pavela.

“The biggest thing was our doubles. Getting to know personnel is important. They learned one another’s strengths and got a better idea of weak points,” Mikylyuk said. “During the tournament, they worked out the kinks.”

Palombo agreed.

“The doubles really improved,” she said. “The tournament really helped us get into better shape than we thought we would be.”

Despite the team’s rapid development and growth, the Belles can still improve.

“We lost two matches 4-5. We need to find another gear and dig deeper to win those matches 5-4,” Mikulyuk said. “Overall, we must continue to find a deeper level.”

However, Palombo felt the team lost those matches because of extenuating circumstances.

“We had some bad luck. One girl caught the stomach flu and another blew out her knee. Others suffered from severe blisters,” she said.

Moreover, the Belles had to persevere through seven competitions in six days, requiring multiple matches per day from the players.

Ultimately, the Belles had a productive week, acquiring confidence, fortitude and experience.

“We beat the teams we were supposed to and won a couple of points against premier competition,” Palombo said. “It was a really good start to the season. It was nice to play match points. We now know the things we need to work and improve on for conference play. We don’t have a match this week, so we have lots of time to do some drills and clean up some shots.”

The Belles’ next challenge will be March 23 with a home contest against Olivet College.