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SMC Tennis: Belles face tough squads

Gene Noone | Friday, March 9, 2007

While many college students will travel to Florida to work on their tans this spring break, the Saint Mary’s tennis team is headed to the Sunshine State to begin the 2007 season.

The Belles travel to Orlando Sunday to take on several challenging opponents. The pool of teams in Orlando will include Franklin and Marshall, Wisconsin-Lacrosse, Haverford and the University of Puerto Rico.

Coming off a solid 2006 season, the Belles will look to regain the success they had a few years ago in winning four straight conference tournament titles from 2001 to 2004. This edition of the squad looks poised to regain the title with a combination of strong senior leadership and new freshman talent.

Senior captain Kelly McDavitt, who claimed a fourth-place finish in No. 2 singles at last season’s MIAA championship, will lead the team. The senior is already well versed in the leadership role after serving as a co-captain last year. The Belles will look to McDavitt’s veteran experience throughout the season.

Other top returnees include sophomore Mary Elizabeth Campbell, who posted 11 singles wins last season, senior Tara O’Brian, who also posted an 11-win campaign, and senior Grace Gordon, who produced eight victories as a member of last season’s No. 2 doubles team.

Several freshmen will work to have an immediate impact on this year’s team. Saint Mary’s coach Dee Stevenson hopes some of these freshman players will raise the level of competition during the spring trip.

The Belles have a busy week ahead of them. The team will be playing multiple matches a day for most of the trip. On Sunday, the Belles take on Franklin and Marshall. They will then face Wisconsin-Lacrosse and Haverford Monday. After a break on Tuesday, the team will return to the court Wednesday to play the Hamilton and Haverford, followed by Bentley Thursday. Saint Mary’s closes out the week with matches against Drew and Skidmore Friday.

Although playing so many matches in a short amount of time may seem demanding, Stevenson said the team is excited to get to Florida to play a number of competitive matches. He expects the most challenging tennis to be played against Wisconsin-Lacrosse and the University of Puerto Rico.

The team hopes for a good showing in Florida so that it can gain momentum going into the MIAA season.

“Our goals for the year include winning our conference, getting invited to the Midwest Tournament and finally getting invited to the NCAA Tournament,” Stevenson said.

When the Belles return from Florida, they have their first home match against Olivet March 21 at 3 p.m.