On Thursday, Oct. 17, Erika Oku ’21, Daria Beshentseva ’22 and Jake Zalenski ’20 traveled to Rome, Ga. to participate in the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) Cup as representatives of the Kenyon College men’s and women’s tennis teams. Oku partnered with Beshentseva to compete in the doubles tournament as well as participating in the singles competition, while Zalenski played in the men’s singles tournament. Zalenski and Oku both recieved All-America status at the event.
In doubles competition, Oku and Beshentseva lost their first match in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, to Emory College’s Emma Cartledge and Defne Olcay. The pair would rebound in their next match, securing a victory over Carnegie Mellon University’s (Pa.) Lindy Cornwall and Bin Zheng. Despite the victory, the pair’s competition came to an end soon after with a loss to New York University’s Anastasiia Balyk and Anna Buraya.
Oku would fare better in the singles tournament, where she went 2-1 to tie for fifth place in the 16-player competition. Entering as the seventh seed, she began the tournament against Bethel University’s (Mn.) Grace Riermann. After losing the first set, Oku made a ferocious comeback, winning the next two sets, 6-0, 6-2, to move on to the next round. She would then lose to the tournament’s third seed Justine Leong, but won her next match against second seed Katherine Fleischmanwhen Fleischman was forced to retire after the first set due to injury.
Jake Zalenski would follow a similar path to Oku in his tournament, going 2-1 and tying for fifth overall. Starting strong, he picked up a victory of George Fox University’s (Or.) Will Leach after taking consecutive sets 6-4, 6-2, but he would then fall to second seed Nikolai Parodi. Zalenski would pick himself up after this loss, though, winning in straight sets to take one more victory.
“The ITA Cup was a great experience as I was able to see the guys at the top of the division and learn about my game through my losses,” Zalenski said. “I think I did a good job of staying consistent and not having any lapses in focus throughout my matches.”
The ITA Cup was the end of the fall season for both tennis teams, and the spring season will begin for them on Feb. 1 with a meet at the University of Northwestern Ohio.