Individual wins not enough as women’s tennis drop fourth-straight match

First-year Sophie Herrmann battled to a 7-5, 6-0 straight sets win in URI’s 4-2 loss to Richmond. PHOTO CREDIT:

The University of Rhode Island women’s tennis team lost a pair of matches against Richmond and George Washington over the weekend, dropping to a 5-12 record with only one win in their last 11 matches.

The weekend of action kicked off on Saturday as the team traveled to the nation’s capital for an in-conference clash with George Washington. The match was delayed for the better part of an hour due to inclement weather, which caused a shift in the order of play according to first-year Nikki Fernando. The singles matches were played first, and the doubles matches were abandoned due to time constraints. 

Fernando came out with a 6-4, 6-4 straight sets win against Sarah Bowdewies on Saturday, alongside fellow fourth-year Nadia Rajan who played to a 7-5, 6-3 win over GW’s Alejandra Ramirez.

The pair of wins wasn’t enough for Rhode Island to come out on top, however, as the remaining four Rams lost their singles matches. 

Despite coming out strong in the first set, first-year Sophie Herrmann could not hold on, falling to Stella Wiesemann in a tiebreak set, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4. Third-year Valentina Cvackova fell 6-4, 6-4, in straight sets to Gabrielle Giraldo, while GW’s Charlotte Bell took a convincing 6-1, 6-3 over first-year Ava Grnja. Finally, fifth-year Paulina Loredo fell to Lindsay Thompson in a pair of tightly-contested sets, finishing 7-5, 7-5.

Without the doubles point in play, Rhode Island had to settle for the 4-2 loss after the singles matches were completed.

“It could’ve gone either way, it was so close,” Fernando said. “The doubles point really makes a difference, but [it’s] just the luck of the draw and we couldn’t have predicted the weather.”

The Rams faced a quick turnaround on Sunday, traveling to Richmond to take on the Richmond Spiders. 

This time, the doubles point was in play, and Rhode Island took full advantage with a pair of doubles wins to kick off the match. 

Doubles partners Rajan and Loredo took a 6-4 win against Polina Shitiklova and Andrea Campodonico, while Fernando and first-year Priyanka Shanker ensured that URI won the doubles points with another 6-4 win over Marta Buendia and Claire Le Du.

It was the visitors who dominated singles play, as Herrmann recorded the only win for Rhode Island on the day. She bested Leonor Oliviera 7-5, 6-0, finishing off a convincing win with a second-set bagel.

Rajan fell to Campodonico in a 6-4, 6-3 match, while Fernando fell to Elizabeth Novak in a 6-1, 6-2 match following her doubles win. De Lu held Loredo to only three won games in a match of the same score, while Shanker recorded only one game win in a 6-1, 6-0 loss to Shitikova.

Cvakova also featured in singles play, but her match did not finish in the midst of a 6-3, 3-4 battle with Carly Cohen.

“This whole season has been a lot of close matches,” head coach Val Villucci said. “We have the ability to win. We’re never out of the matches, we’re not getting outplayed, we’re just not getting the breaks that we need…Individually, some [players] are winning their matches at times while others aren’t and we just have not been able to put it all together.”

Despite the negative results, Villucci credited the high level of play in the Atlantic-10 conference, saying her players were playing at a high level but just needed to overcome the final hurdle. 

“It’s really trying to develop a greater sense of hunger, it’s knowing when you’ve got an opponent down, and being able to finish them,” Villucci said. “We’re getting the point where we know we’ve got them down, but we’re not finishing. At this level, you cannot allow that window to open again…the will to win has to be greater than the fear of losing.”

The matches saw Rhode Island fall in a second consecutive 4-2 loss, falling to 1-2 in conference and 5-12 on the year. With five matches left until the Atlantic 10 championships at the end of April, Villucci said that she has her sights set on long-term development.

Part of that development comes with experience, which both Villucci and Fernando agree is something that will come with experience among a team of several first-years.

“Half of our team is made up of freshmen,” Fernando said. “This is our first go, and we’re experiencing these things for the first time. Some of these tight matches come with experience, but I’d say we’re improving which I’m really happy about.”

“We’ve got four freshmen who are competing maturity-wise very well, but they still need that match experience at the college level,” Villucci said “They’re learning quickly, but they still have to go through that learning curve process. I see a lot of promise in the freshman for sure.”

Next up, the Rams will travel down the road to face in-state rivals Bryant for a non-conference match on April 6th, before traveling to Fordham on Saturday.