Losing two of their top three players to injuries for the remainder of the season, the Slippery Rock tennis team will need to rely on their depth and get some big performances out of some of their younger, less experienced players.
Juniors Carla Corrochano Moracho and Nina Barbano will not be able to compete for the rest of the season, according to head coach Matt Meredith. Corrochano Moracho, who plays number two singles and on the top doubles pair, ends the year 12-7 in singles and 9-6 in doubles. Barbano, who plays number three singles and on the second doubles pair, finishes the season 5-1 in singles and 4-3 in doubles.
“We’re going to have to step up,” Meredith said. “If we all play good doubles we’re capable of (winning). I’m proud to say, they know how to play good doubles and we’re going to be competitive regardless of where we’re playing or how we’re doing it.”
Meredith said that doubles sophomore Amanda Bruscemi, Barbano’s regular partner, will move up and play in the first pairing with freshman Lacey Cohen.
Cohen, Bruscemi and the rest of the team were all in action this weekend, as the team played three games over three days. On Friday and Saturday, The Rock defeated a pair of local rivals in Grove City College and Westminster College before traveling to Seton Hill University to play in their Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference opener Sunday.
The Green and White dominated Grove City in the team’s first match without both Barbano and Corrochano Moracho on Friday, winning 9-0. Cohen won in first singles 6-2, 6-1, senior Tiffany Kollah won in second singles 6-1, 6-4 and Bruscemi won 6-2, 6-3 rounding out the top three flights. Senior Stephanie Fortier (6-2, 6-1) won in fourth singles, sophomore Allie Welch (6-4, 6-2) won in fifth and senior Kylee Woodman (6-2, 4-6, 10-6) rounded out the singles sweep in the most competitive match in the sixth slot.
Meredith mentioned how every girl behind Cohen is basically playing up two spots and how that could be a challenge for some.
“For the most part, everyone is playing up here,” Meredith said. “Amanda (Bruscemi) is up, basically, three spots. She usually plays five if we’re healthy. Allie (Welch) is usually my seven player, she’s playing four. They’re stepping up and playing like they need to do. We’re a solid team, we might get outmatched a little bit later, but we’re going to be in matches and they’re fighting as hard as they can.”
Cohen and Bruscemi won in top doubles 8-3, Fortier and Woodman won in second doubles 8-3 and Welch and freshman Zoe McCafferty won third doubles 8-2.
Saturday was the team’s first true home match of the year and team did not disappoint the home crowd. SRU beat Westminster 7-2. The lineup was basically the same as Friday’s, with the only difference being Kollah replacing McCafferty in number three doubles. The two losses for the Green and White were Welch in fourth flight singles (6-3, 0-6, 10-6) and Fortier and Woodman in second doubles (8-5).
The Rock looked to take the momentum of their two straight wins into Seton Hill and try to come away with the victory, however they fell just short, losing 6-3 Sunday evening.
The wins for the Green and White came from Cohen in first singles (6-2, 6-1), Woodman in sixth singles (6-2, 4-6, 10-6) and Cohen and Bruscemi in first doubles (8-4).
Playing in the top singles and doubles spot as just a freshman, Cohen has impressed all season long. She is 10-9 in singles on the season, winning each of her last three, and 14-6 overall in doubles play. Meredith said that Cohen is not even playing to her fullest potential yet.
“She needs to realize, she hasn’t realized it yet, that she’s one of the best players in this region,” Meredith said. “Once she realizes that, she’s just going to take off. We’re seeing glimpses of it, so that’ll happen.”
Despite losing two of his top three players, Meredith said that they are not giving up on the season just yet. He thinks that some girls playing up as well as some of the younger girls now competing for more playing time will push the team to be even better.
“We’re only as good as the people that are standing right here,” Meredith said. “If the number 10 person can push somebody (for a spot) then we’re going to get better, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s why we’re able to compete because we have that mentality that they all belong, we’re a team. It doesn’t matter what position you play, we’re a team.”
The Rock will be back in action Tuesday, back at the SRU tennis courts taking on PSAC foe Mercyhurst University staring at 4:00 p.m.