Western Carolina’s women’s tennis team competed in six matches over the spring holidays, notching victories in three of their last four contests after dropping their first two as they kicked off Southern Conference action.
The Lady Catamounts (4-5, 0-2) traveled to Hilton Head, SC to play four non-conference matches last week. They managed to defeat the University of California of Pacific, Dayton, and Marist College while falling to Coastal Carolina.
WCU ended the week sweeping UCP 5-0 and dominating every match. No Western player or duo allowed more than two games for their UCP opponents.
Singles match-ups saw freshman Kristin Munn open action by topping Olga Gonzalez 6-1. Junior Shelby Fitzpatrick followed suit by winning 8-2 over Linda Escobedo. Juniors Emmy King and Amy Rex each notched victories by a tally of 8-0 and 8-1, respectively.
Lady Cats’ doubles squads faired similarly well. Their top team, Fitzpatrick and freshman Shannon Zalinski smashed their way to an 8-1 triumph over Escobedo and Gonzalez. At the same time, the teams of Munn and freshman Erin Johnson and King and Rex each swept their UCP counterparts 8-0.
This victory was the second in a row for Western, as they defeated Dayton, again flawlessly, the day before 7-0.
Munn once again earned a win in top-seeded singles action. After winning her first set 6-4, she won the final four games of the second set to close out the match 6-4, 6-4. Fitzpatrick, however, performed a remarkable turn-around in her match which proved to set the tone for the rest of the matches.
She found herself down 5-1 in the opening set before winning five out of the last games to force a tie breaker, which she won 7-1. Exhausted from the comeback, Fitzpatrick dropped the second set 6-0 before stepping up to win the third and decisive set 6-2.
Head coach Jan Stubbs felt her junior second-seed showed poise and experience to turn the match around in her favor. She also believes a match like this can set the tone for a player for the remainder of the season.
“Fitzpatrick changed her game and frustrated her opponent by hitting a lot of slice and no pace balls,” she said. “This was a good win for her and hopefully will boost her confidence.”
Johnson, Zalinski, and King all earned straight set victories, with only Johnson being forced to a seventh game in any of the matches. Stubbs was once again impressed with how these two young freshman have shown marked improvement as the season has progressed.
“Both Shannon Zalinski and Erin Johnson did a good job closing out their matches, which is something only match play can provide,” she said.
On the doubles side, Fitzpatrick and Zalinski won 8-5 over Julie Green and Angie Del Rosso. Meanwhile, Munn and King finished the day’s scoring matches with an 8-3 triumph over Anna Ohlson and Kristen White.
Western Carolina opened play at the Port Royal Racquet Club in Hilton Head by jumping all over Marist College for a 7-0 win. The Lady Cats managed to win all six singles matches and all three doubles contests, including the two non-scoring encounters in straight sets.
Munn kicked off the afternoon with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Kara Bliss in top-seeded singles action. Fitzpatrick, Johnson, and Zalinski followed suit with similarly easy victories, with each allowing no more than three total games in the two sets.
Doubles play proved to be dominated by WCU also, as Fitzpatrick and Zalinski topped Bliss and Kate Syzmansk 8-3 in the number one match. At the same time, King and Munn won their match 8-2 while Rex and Johnson earned a victory by that same margin.
The Lady Catamounts ran into a brick wall on Tuesday in Coastal Carolina, however, falling 7-0 in their only defeat while at Hilton Head.
The day began with a two and a half hour rain delay. After the downpour ceased, Western never could seem to get into rhythm. In singles play, King was the only Lady Cat to force three sets, battling hard until falling 10-6 in a super tie breaker in the final set against Dana Goffin.
The WCU doubles teams also found no success, as Fitzpatrick and Zalinski faired the best by notching three games before falling to Emma Kidd and Lara Lendenmann 8-3.
Before arriving at Hilton Head, WCU traveled to Georgia Southern and the College of Charleston to get their first taste of Southern Conference competition.
They kicked off league action Saturday, March 10 against Georgia Southern in Statesboro, GA. The Eagles notched a 5-2 victory, including sweeping the scoring doubles matches, at Hanner Courts.
Zalinski and King earned the Lady Cats’ lone two points in their singles match-ups. The former topped Amy Winter 7-5, 6-1, while the latter outlasted Callie Ward 7-6, 4-0 before Ward retired.
The Lady Catamounts then visited Charleston, SC for their second conference match of the season against the College of Charleston. WCU once again fell, this time being swept 7-0 at Silcox Courts.
While no player was able to force three sets in singles action, the freshman duo of Zalinski and Johnson put up the biggest fight in doubles, capturing four games before falling 8-4.
The Lady Catamounts now enter the heat of the conference season. Tomorrow, they will travel to Davidson to battle the Lady Wildcats. This weekend, however, Western opens home league play taking on UNC Greensboro on Saturday and Appalachian State on Sunday. Both matches begin at 1:00 p.m.