Tennis blanked by NJIT in final non-conference match ahead of A-10 championships

Third-year Valentina Cvackcova combined with first-year Sophie Herrman for URI’s only win of the day on Saturday. PHOTO CREDIT:

The University of Rhode Island women’s tennis team closed out their spring 2023 non-conference slate in Newport on Sunday, falling to the New Jersey Institute of Technology in a 4-0 shutout loss, their 13th loss in 15 matches. 

Coming off of a 5-0 win vs. Saint Joseph’s, head coach Val Villucci said that this match was yet another example of one that could’ve fallen either way, especially with the doubles point coming down to the wire.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that we’re not getting the wins, but I’m not discouraged at all [because] of how they’re competing and how well they’re playing,” Villucci said. “We by far are not being outplayed, it’s just the way things are happening for us.”

In similar fashion to previous matches this season, it was Rhode Island who got off to a strong start in doubles. First-year Sophie Herrman and third-year Valentina Cvackcova combined for URI’s only win of the day, a 6-4 win at doubles one over Irene Cocero and Shivani Ingle.

“We went into the match and everyone had a pretty positive mindset, but [we were] also making sure we’re playing a ‘clinch match:’ trying to feel like we’re ready to go and feeling good,” Herrman said. “I feel like in some aspects we did cover that, but also there were definitely some challenges.”

NJIT’s Joleta Budiman and Shalom Salvi were the next to finish, overcoming first-years Ava Grnja and Priyanka Shanker at the doubles three position with a 6-3 win and setting up a deciding result at doubles two for the opening point.

The deciding match would come down to a tiebreaker that eventually saw NJIT take the 1-0 lead through the doubles point. Sandra Dzhambazov and Laura Wipfli took a narrow 7-6 set over fifth-year Paulina Loredo and fourth-year Nadia Rajan to give NJIT the opening point.

From there, it only took three results for the visitors to claim the team victory. A trio of straight-set wins at the singles three, four and five spots were enough for NJIT to walk away with the 4-0 win.

Joleta Budiman defeated Rajan 6-3, 6-3 at the three spot, closely followed by Laira Wipfli, who finished with a 6-3, 6-2 win against Fernando at the four spot. Cocero closed out a shutout win at singles six, only dropping two total games in a dominant 6-1, 6-1 win over Shanker.

Herrman, Cvackcova and Loredo were also in the midst of singles action, but their matches were halted after NJIT earned enough team points for the win. During that time, Loredo held a 6-2, 1-4 lead over Shalom Salvi before her match was stopped.

“We just haven’t had the luck go our way, it’s kind of the same story,” Villucci said. “It’s unfortunate for the athletes. Individually, they’re having their wins, they’re just not having their wins at the same time…it’s a fine line, we’re just on the wrong side of it right now.”

Villucci also emphasized smaller aspects of the game that she says have added up for her team: missed calls, balls taking unpredictable bounces off of the netcord and the new no-let service rule that dictates that players must play serves off of the netcord are just a few examples of small details that she says have hurt her team in close matches.

The Rams will hope that their luck changes with one more tune-up opportunity before heading to Lake Nona, FL for the Atlantic 10 in May: a meeting with A-10 frontrunners University of Massachusetts.

“If we could beat them it would be an upset, they’re definitely one of the top dogs in the conference right now,” Villucci said ahead of the match. 

The regular season finale between the Rams and the Minutewomen is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI.