Section: Sports

Ladies and Lords tennis begin seasons with blowout victories

Ladies and Lords tennis begin seasons with blowout victories

Erika Oku '21 earned NCAC player of the week honors for her victories on Sunday. | COURTESY OF KENYON COLLEGE ATHLETICS

Women’s

The Kenyon women’s tennis team began their winter season on Feb. 2 in the Jasper Tennis Center with a competition against the University of Northwestern Ohio Racers. The Ladies, though coming off a long break after their fall season, showed no signs of rust, sweeping the Racers 9-0.

Every player who took the court for the purple and black came away with a victory, and four won multiple matches. In addition, the Ladies managed to drop only one set throughout the entire day.

Kenyon’s day started as well as they could have asked for in the doubles matches. The top duo of Oku and Maggie Sweeney ’19 dominated their opponents 8-3. Meanwhile, Daria Beshentseva ’22 and Ilana Blackwood ’21 failed to drop a game, winning the match with a score of 8-0.

Beshentseva continued her impressive play in her singles match, winning in two perfect sets (6-0, 6-0) over Milica Karanovic. She has already become a major contributor to the team, competing in the No. 4 singles slot and No. 2 doubles slot in her first dual match with the team. Annie Reiner ’19 mirrored her teammate’s performance, winning 6-0, 6-1 against Ellen Sandstrom in the No. 5 singles matchup. Blackwood played just as flawlessly, losing only two games in her singles battle.

There was one extremely well-contested match, between the two top seeds Erika Oku ’21 and Camila Puente. Oku dominated the first set, winning 6-1. Puente responded with a 6-3 victory of her own, but the best action was in the deciding frame. The two could not be separated, as they were forced into a tiebreaker that Oku took 10-8. For her performance in both her matches, Oku was named the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Player of the Week in women’s tennis.

It will be tough for Kenyon to replicate their magnificent 2017-2018 season, where they finished 21-3 and beat four ranked opponents along the way,  reaching the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) DIII Championships before losing to No. 9 Carnegie Mellon. With the graduation of three seniors, the Ladies are looking to Reiner and Sweeney to lead a relatively young team back to the NCAA tournament. Of the seven Ladies who participated in their season opener, two were first years and three were sophomores.

The question will be whether the Ladies can generate enough depth to make a run in the NCAC, or even to nationals. “I’m excited to see all of our players develop during the year,” head coach Scott Thielke said. “Our first-year trio of Dasha, Sofia and Anna are going to be the future of our team, along with the four sophomores Erika, Ilana, Kayla and Elena. We are picked as co-favorites with Denison to win the conference, and I look forward to this contest and conference challenge.”

With a resounding success in their first tournament, the Ladies will look to continue in fine form against Centre College on Feb. 17.

Men’s

The Kenyon men’s tennis squad opened their spring campaign at home with a series of matches against the University of Northwestern Ohio. It was the fourth year in a row that the Lords faced the Racers, having lost the previous three by only a combined 4 matches. However on Saturday the Lords were able to buck that trend, winning the doubles competition and claiming five out of six matches in singles play against the Racers.

The Racers came into the contest ranked No. 16 by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in their preseason poll, while the Lords were ranked at No. 14 among National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-III teams.

The Kenyon men aimed to prove their superiority from the first serve, as seniors Nicholas Paolucci and Henry Barrett made quick work of their opponents in an 8-2 rout. Jacob Zalenski ’20 and Pascal Lee ’22 followed up Kenyon’s resounding opening victory with a solid win of their own, besting the opposition 8-6. Finally, Austin Diehl ’20 and Bryan Yoshino ’21 rounded out Kenyon’s sweep of the doubles competition with a tight 8-7 (7-4) victory. “I was kind of nervous during the doubles match, [Northwestern Ohio] is a pretty good team and doubles is always a little weaker for me,” Diehl said. “It was a little tight, but it was good to get the win.”

To open singles play, Yoshino swiftly defeated Duarte Teixeira, one of the two men he’d just defeated in doubles, 6-2, 6-0. Needing a win to stay alive in the match and gain momentum, the Racers turned to Teixeira’s partner, senior Radu Popa. Coming in as the No. 3 ranked player in the NAIA, Popa delivered the Racers their first victory, defeating Zalenski 6-4, 6-3.

It would be their only win that day. The remaining matches saw only Lords victories. Diehl continued his roll, defeating Artur Culicovschi 6-3, 6-3. Paolucci was able to beat his opponent Marcos Salazar, 4-6, 6-3, 12-10, to assure the Lords’ victory with the decisive point for the meet. Finally, Anatol Doroskevic ’19 claimed a 6-1, 6-2 win over David Ayguavives, and Barrett was able to close the day with a 6-3, 5-7, 10-7 triumph over Lars Kaplusch.

Due to his success against the Racers, Diehl was named the North Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Week for the fourth time in his three year Kenyon career, as he extended his dual-match win streak to 22. He has not lost a singles match in a non-tournament format since his first year at Kenyon.

The Lords play their next match against  Rhodes College (Tn.) on Feb. 15 in Gambier.

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