Women's Tennis Team Finishes Fifth in National Tournament
The Women's Tennis Team set out for the NJCAA National Tournament in College Station, TX, on May 1 with six talented players, three of whom were returning to the nationals for the second year. What was missing this year, according to Head Coach Marc Vecchiolla, was a consistent practice schedule to help prepare the women for their toughest competition ever.
"The other teams looked better than in the past," Vecchiolla said. "Between scheduling conflicts and uncooperative weather, our players were only able to get on the court once or twice a week, which hurt us."
The Vikings placed fifth out of 12 teams, with Maureen Haggerty at no. 3 singles going to the finals and achieving All-American status. "She was our strongest player," Vecchiolla said. "In the semis, she beat the 2003 national winner of flight 3 in two sets (6-4, 6-4), a player who had beaten her last year." The final was held on Texas A&M University's varsity courts, a premier facility. "Maureen played well in the final. She lost in a close match, 7-5, 6-4." Haggerty started playing tennis just two years ago and hopes to continue playing when she transfers to TCNJ in the fall.
Landry Shelley at no. 1 singles had a bye in the first round and then lost in the quarterfinals in three sets. "She was doing well, but her opponent dug deep, came back and the momentum shifted the other way," Vecchiolla said.
At no. 2 was Silvina Wills, who sat out the fall season with an injury, but made it to the semi-final round in her very first tournament experience. Sherry Lin at no. 4 singles also lost in the semis. Vecchiolla considers Lin his most improved player. "During our fall season, Sherry lost several matches in regional play and here she was competing in the semi-finals at the nationals." Wills and Lin also made it to the semis in doubles, while Janice Wilcox and Desiree Noel at no.5 and 6 singles, lost in the first round.
Noted Vecchiolla, "To do well as a team, you have to do well at the bottom of the line-up. Those points are weighted the same as winning at no. 1. Unless you can win those matches, you’re probably going to finish in the middle of the pack."
While they didn't come home with a trophy this year, Vecchiolla is proud of the Vikings' consistent record of achievement. "We have gone to the nationals for the past seven years. This year, we were fifth out of 60 teams in the country. The worst we've ever placed is sixth." The women have earned three national titles and two second place finishes.
Lin and Wills are expected to return next year, which pleases Vecchiolla. "Lin has shown remarkable progress and Wills has tremendous talent and great leadership skills," he said.
According to Vecchiolla, this was the last national tournament to be held in the spring. "The NJCAA will start holding the nationals in the fall immediately following the regular tennis season. That's a big break for our players. They're peaking in October and then they're not playing competitively again for five months." It's particularly tough in a region where outdoor play is not possible in the winter months, he added.
Next year the site for the nationals will change as well. Plano, TX, and Gulf Shores, AL, are both under consideration. "Now all I have to do is recruit four new players and win the region," Vecchiolla said with a laugh. Given his track record, these goals are almost certainly within reach.
Vecchiolla was assisted this year by Barbara Pleva
and Ralph Bencivengo.