Women’s tennis snaps five-game losing skid in ‘rollercoaster’ battle vs. St. Joe’s

Fifth-year Paulina Loredo overcame Sophia Amato in a three set battle during Sunday’s win. PHOTO CREDIT: gorhody.com

The University of Rhode Island women’s tennis team snapped a five game winless run over the weekend, losing 4-0 at Fordham on Saturday before returning home to sweep Saint Joseph’s 5-0 on Sunday.

In search of what would be only their second win in 13 matches dating back to Feb. 19, the Rams began the weekend on the road, taking the trip up to New York to face fellow Atlantic 10 rivals Fordham on Saturday. 

The home side came out strong from the start, winning the doubles point while only allowing URI two game wins through two sets.

Fordham’s number one doubles team of Valeriya Deminova and Avery Aude defeated URI’s pairing of first-year Sophie Herrman and third-year Valentina Cvackova 6-2, while URI’s fourth-year Nadia Rajan and fifth-year Paulina Loredo fell to Eleni Fasoula and Lindsay Hung at the doubles two spot, 6-1. 

First-year pairing Nikki Fernando and Priyanka Shanker were in the midst of a 5-2 battle between Carlota Casasampere and Rachelle Yang, but the match was ended after the first two pairings secured the doubles point. 

Fordham’s dominance would continue into singles play, as they came away with three straight-set victories to secure the 4-0 shutout.

Hung would defeat Cvakcova 6-3, 6-2 at the number two singles spot to kick off singles play, followed by Eleni Fosoula, who bested Rajan in a 6-2, 6-3 battle.

Casasampere would seal the win for Fordham at the number five spot, defeating Loredo 6-3, 6-3. Herrman, Fernando and Shanker also featured in singles play, but their matches went unfinished after Fordham gathered enough match wins to secure the team victory.

After managing only one set win their fight-straight loss on Saturday, the Rams returned home the next day to face another A-10 opponent in Saint Joseph’s.

This time, it was a different story for Rhode Island. In a match that featured a back-and-forth battle and several close matchups, the home side pulled away early on to take the lead through the doubles point. Shanker and Fernando got things started at number three doubles, defeating Ireland and Sophia Amato 6-2, improving to 7-2 as doubles partners on the season. Hermann and Cvackova fell to Anna Kirk and Stow Weiss by the same score at number one doubles, but Loredo and Rajan were able to secure the doubles point with a hard-fought 7-5 win over Emily Elliott and Kirsten Wijnsema. 

Through singles play, Rhode Island would win four more matches to secure the 5-0 shutout win. Fernando was the first to finish her match at doubles four, allowing Fabiana Tort-Umpierre only two games in a 6-0, 6-2 victory, her 10th singles win of the year. Loredo finished soon after, coming back from a first-set deficit to claim a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Sophia Amato in the singles five slot.

According to URI head coach Val Villucci, despite showing mental resilience to pull away for the win, it was not always perfect from her team. 

“I can’t say they weren’t struggling mentally on the court, [because] they were, you could see it at times, their frustration,” Villucci said. “But it was their determination to rise above it which is what we’ve been talking about all year, trying to put the emotional piece [and] take it out of the situation.” 

Cvackova was next to step off the court with a win at singles two, defeating Charlotte Kordonowy in a second-set tiebreaker, 6-4, 7-6 (7). Finally, Herrman would secure the win with another three-set win over Stow Weiss that came down to the wire at singles one: 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. Shanker and Rajan were both in the midst of three–set battles, but their matches were halted in the third set after Rhode Island claimed five points, enough for the team victory.

“Any win in conference is a really great win, so I was really happy to see everyone come together and play some very strong tennis, because I feel like we’ve been working towards that all season,” Herrman said. 

According to Villucci, the shutout on the scoresheet didn’t tell the story of the match, one that featured several three-set matches and tiebreakers to decide who would claim the points. 

“That match could’ve gone either way, the score doesn’t indicate it,” Villucci said. “It [the score] says 5-0, but it was a rollercoaster of a match. We were up in the match, and then you could feel the momentum change and we started to fall behind, then we ended up fighting back and turning it into a winning situation. But it definitely could’ve been the other way around…It just shows how much of a fine line it is between a win and a loss for us.”

With the win against Saint Joseph’s now fresh in the rearview mirror, Rhode Island have two regular season matches remaining before the A-10 Championships at the end of April.

“I knew it was in them, I knew we could do it, it’s just a matter of belief on their part,” Villucci said. “The determination finally kicked in…they just kept fighting back, it was really good to see. Any momentum is good momentum, so we’ll use it the best we can.”

The Rams will return to the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday, set to take on NJIT in their final non-conference match of the season at 7 p.m..