This past weekend, the No. 21 Ladies tennis team competed on their home courts in the NCAC tournament. Kenyon beat Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) and DePauw University on their way to the final, where they fell to No. 30 Denison University.
On Friday, the Ladies entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the East, which earned them a quarterfinal matchup against the No. 4 seed in the West, the OWU Battling Bishops. Kenyon opened the match with strong doubles play, as Anna Winslow ’22 and Erika Pontillo ’23 swept the No. 2 doubles match 8-0. In the No. 1 doubles match, Daria Beshentseva ’22 and Eleni Dakos ’24 made similarly quick work of OWU’s top pair, defeating them 8-3. The Ladies took a commanding lead in the match when Natalie Connelly ’25 and Irina Beshentseva ’24 took the final doubles match 8-5. Needing only two matches from singles to advance, dominating efforts from Pontillo (6-0, 6-1) and Connelly (6-0, 6-0) clinched the 5-0 victory for Kenyon.
The Ladies faced the DePauw Tigers, the No. 2 seed in the West, in the semifinals on Saturday. Kenyon once again found themselves with an early lead, thanks to their prowess in the doubles. At the No. 2 doubles, Pontillo and Winslow once again swept their competition 8-0. Daria Beshentseva and Dakos took the No. 1 doubles match 8-4, and, in the No. 3 doubles, Catriona MacIntosh ’23 and Lala Nagireddy ’25 won by the same score. Nagireddy credited the doubles players for their ability to help the Ladies to an early lead. “Everyone stepped up in doubles and we took a 3-0 lead in both [the quarter- and semifinal] matches and it took pressure off us going into singles,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian. Though the pressure was off at singles, Kenyon was again strong, as MacIntosh and Nagireddy won their matches to punch the Ladies’ ticket to a finals faceoff against Denison, the No. 1 seed in the West.
In the NCAC finals, Kenyon again relied on strong doubles play. Though Pontillo and Winslow fell at the No. 2 doubles 8-6, Daria Beshentseva and Dakos tied the team score at one with their 8-6 win in the No. 1 doubles match. Looking to take a 2-1 lead heading into singles play, Nagireddy and MacIntosh gutted out an 8-7 (7-4) win in the No. 3 doubles. Despite the Ladies’ momentum, the Big Red took over in singles. At the No. 4 singles, MacIntosh fell 6-3, 6-2 to tie the match at two all. Though the Big Red took a lead thanks to the No. 3 singles, Daria Beshentseva took the No. 1 singles 6-4, 6-1 to even the match. Dakos battled in the No. 2 singles, forcing a tiebreaker but ultimately falling 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 (10-5). With Denison poised to claim the championship, Winslow took the first set at the No. 5 singles, but Caroline Lopez fought back to win the second set and the tiebreaker, securing the Big Red’s 13th NCAC title. Though Nagireddy praised the Ladies for their strength in doubles play, she admitted that there was room to grow in the singles matches. “I think doubles went well against Denison, we took a 2-1 lead but we struggled to keep the intensity up in singles,” she said. “We also struggled a little with handling the pressure, but I think we still did pretty good.”
The Ladies ended the season with a 13-10 record, going 3-0 in NCAC play in the regular season. Kenyon will have to wait until May 9 to see if they have secured a berth in the NCAA tournament. Whether the Ladies play again this spring or next hit the courts in the fall, Nagireddy believes the team can learn from their season. “I would say we can work on keeping our intensity high throughout the match and in situations like this we have to dig deep,” she said.