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SMC Tennis: Lineup changes help Belles defeat Bulldogs

Jack Hefferon | Monday, April 18, 2011

As the season winds down, each match for Saint Mary’s takes on increasing importance. Its win on Saturday against Adrian was a boost for the Belles in the conference standings, and tonight’s match at Calvin College will be another late-season MIAA test.

On Saturday, the Belles (11-6, 4-2 MIAA) took down the visiting Bulldogs (5-10, 2-5) by a score of 7-2. The win came with a new look in the doubles department, as Belles coach Dale Campbell juggled the pairings by swapping freshman Mary Catherine Faller and senior Jessica Kosinski, normally the No. 3 team, into the No. 2 spot.

“Our No. 3 has been winning pretty handily lately, and our No. 2 team of [freshman] Mary Therese Lee and [senior captain] Franca Peluso has struggled with some close losses, so we made the switch,” Campbell said. “Faller and Kosinski have played so well, we wanted to give them a shot against some better competition.”

Both teams adjusted on the fly to their new roles. Faller and Kosinski proved they could play at a higher level despite a closely fought 8-6 loss, and Peluso and Lee found their winning ways again by cruising to an 8-3 win.

“Those two played very well at No. 3 doubles,” Campbell said.

Looking forward now, the Belles will face a very able conference opponent in tonight’s matchup with Calvin. The Knights (6-8, 4-2) have the same record in conference as Saint Mary’s and are arguably its closest MIAA competition. With only two conference matches left for each team, the winner of tonight’s showdown could grab the edge in the conference standings and the all-important tournament seeding.

“It’s going to be a great match,” Campbell said. “They’re a very good team and they are especially strong at the top of their lineup.”

The very top of the Knights’ lineup is loaded with talent, as the squad features a number of strong players including senior Melissa Oosterhouse playing at No.1 singles and doubles. Oosterhouse is the reigning MIAA Most Valuable Player and has won her last 11 singles matches and her last eight doubles matches.

Saint Mary’s senior captain Jillian Hurley will be tasked with taking on Oosterhouse in singles and doubles, but Campbell believes Hurley is capable of pulling off the upset.

“She has played [Oosterhouse] very close in the past, losing 7-5 in the second set last year,” Campbell said. “She’ll have to be patient and she’ll have to keep her unforced errors down, but she should have a great chance of winning,”

In the end, every match should be hotly contested, and the final result may come down to the last match.

“We’re expecting to play a very close match,” Campbell said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to get the edge tomorrow, and I think we’ll be able to.”

The match will begin tonight at 4 p.m. in Grand Rapids, Mich.