Defending Tennis Champs Come Up One Point Short
Mercer Takes Second in National Tournament


The Vikings fought until the very last match but came up one point short in defending their 2005 national title. Montgomery College (Rockville, MD) won the team competition with 23 points. Mercer, who trailed heavily going into the final day, finished with an impressive 22 points.

According to Head Coach Marc Vecchiolla, this was a case of the better team finishing second. "That's sports, and that's why we play. The scoring system is what it is, and we accept that. Rockville won all of their first round matches and that was the difference. We beat Rockville head to head in all four matches we played against them and we won four out of nine flights. Rockville only won one flight. Our record was 16-5 in all matches played; Rockville’s final record in the tournament was 10-8.”

The problem, Vecchiolla said, was Mercer’s draws. As last year’s champs, the team earned byes in the first round, receiving no easy points for easy wins. Natalia Huff at no. 1 lost to the no. 1 ranked player in the nation in the first round of singles and with her partner Jane Senor in doubles, while two players from last year’s second place team, Broome CC (NY), were unseeded and upset Mercer at the no. 4 and no. 5 spots.

Going into the final day, Mercer had nine points and Rockville had 21. “We needed to win all of our final matches to win the tournament,” Vecchiolla said. “We ended up winning seven and losing one.” He noted that the players’ ability to battle back from such a deficit to come within one point of winning shows their character.

With four national championships under their belt and a 2006 squad that was truly at the top of its game, the Vikings had high hopes of gaining another title as they entered the tournament. “Still it was a good experience,” Vecchiolla said. “You know you have something good when you are disappointed with second place. It was the luck of the draw – bad luck for us.”

Vecchiolla notes that like last year, the roster was strong in all nine flights. “I'll be talking about this particular team for years. I've been awestruck by their chemistry and commitment to their games and to each other. These women went into the tournament focused and determined, recognizing that at the national level the matches are always competitive."

While praising all his players, he singled out the Herculean effort of Caitlin Bagdonas at no. 2. Her second singles victory in the final lasted almost 4-1/2 hours with scores of 7-5, 6-7 and 7-5. She then went on to play doubles with partner Cahill, winning in 2-1/2 hours with scores of 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, for a whopping seven hours on the court.

The roster included co-captain Natalia Huff (#1), Caitlin Bagdonas (#2), Rachel Hendrickson (#3), co-captain Krystle Duay (#4), Siobhan Cahill (#5), Sherry Lin (#6), Jane Senor (#7), Monica Nichols (#8), Daniela Provost (#9), and Jessica Fleming (#10); doubles pairings were Huff/Senor play at #1, Bagdonas/Cahill at #2 and Hendrickson/Duay at #3.

Players selected to the All-American first team were Caitlin Bagdonas and Rachel Hendrickson in singles, and Bagdonas/Cahill and Duay/Hendrickson in doubles; Sherry Lin was selected to the All-American second team.

For Coach Vecchiolla, the silver lining in the second place finish is a renewed focus on bringing the trophy back to Mercer. He will have his work cut out for him – all starters are sophomores who will not be returning to the line-up. Vecchiolla was assisted during the fall and spring seasons by Ralph Bencivengo and Barb Pleva.

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