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SMC TENNIS: Belles stun Scots, roll into postseason play

Patrick McCabe | Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Belles beat Alma 9-0 Tuesday to ascend to fifth place in the MIAA conference standings. After losing four consecutive matches to the elite teams in the league, the young Belles have won four straight, the final two against conference opponents. At 8-9 (3-4), the Belles intend to surge in the tournament.

“Everyone’s coming together now,” co-captain Kristen Palombo said. “More games have given us more confidence. They [Alma players] were the nicest girls we’ve played all season. We played solidly and well. I’m really excited with our play.”

After the match started at 3 p.m., intermittent showers forced stoppages of play; the contest finished at 9:30. Nonetheless, the Belles’ mental fortitude and unflappable concentration propelled them to victory.

“It was so weird,” Palombo said. “We started outside and played for a bit but stopped when it rained. We came back out to play one doubles match. But it rained again, so we completed the match in the Eck. I was glad we were able to keep it together. It’s hard to stay focused and not to become frustrated.”

The Belles’ struggles early in the season have toughened their tournament path and may hinder them from compiling enough points to win the championship.

“We’re at a disadvantage because I think only Kelly [McDavitt] and I are seeded,” Palombo said. “Our teammates will likely have tough first-round opponents. It’s the luck of the draw, really.”

The team’s past success in the tournament makes the veteran members of the team feel more comfortable.

“I think it has given confidence to Miranda [Mikulyuk] and me because we have been there before and know we can come from behind and win,” Palombo said. “We feel comfortable entering the tournament.”

However, some nervousness and excitement has suffused the younger Belles.

“Many ask Miranda and I questions about what play is like and what goes on in the tournament,” Palombo said. “It’s the first time for many of the girls.”

But the prepared Belles still eagerly eye the two-day grind of the tournament.

“We’re in the best physical shape ever,” Palombo said. “We can withstand playing many matches over a short span.”

Kalamazoo hosts the tournament all day Friday and Saturday.