For the first time since 2012, the Slippery Rock University tennis team picked up a win over Mercyhurst University, Tuesday at the SRU Tennis Courts. A perennial Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference powerhouse, the Lakers frequent the NCAA Tournament almost every season.
SRU head coach Matt Meredith said the win over the Lakers shows how SRU can compete with anyone in the conference. Currently ranked fifth in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, a win over the third-ranked team in the region bodes well for NCAA Tournament hopes.
“If we do what we are supposed to do now, we are going to make the playoffs,” Meredith explained. “If you beat a regionally ranked team—one of the better teams in the conference on the Western side—it can’t hurt. We didn’t quit yesterday, we fought hard and everyone believed in their ability.”
Unlikely comebacks in doubles play facilitated The Rock (10-4, 2-0 PSAC) picking up the crucial point earned through doubles competition. Slow starts from the No. 1 and 2 pairings left Meredith bewildered by the play on the courts.
“I can honestly say it’s the worst doubles and the best doubles that I’ve seen in one match,” laughed Meredith. “That is the experience we need. We talked in the fall about not being a freshman and learning from those experiences and that’s exactly why we came back there. Especially being down 5-0 and being down 5-3 in the other one.”
Junior Viola Lugmayr and freshman Lois Page, the number one pairing for SRU, overcome an 0-5 deficit to pull off a 7-5 victory over the top pairing from the Lakers (8-6, 0-1). Junior Lacey Cohen and sophomore Olivia Warner, the number two pairing for SRU, overcame a 3-5 deficit to earn a 7-5 victory in their match.
Meredith credits a close bond between the women in creating three duos that can compete with anyone in the PSAC.
“There’s some really good chemistry there,” Meredith said. “Things we thought would come together are coming together now.”
Cohen and Lugmayr couldn’t pick up wins in singles action but Page, sophomore Lauren Fadden and senior Allie Welch collected singles wins to ice a 4-3 win over the Lakers.
SRU was back in action the following day against PSAC-West foe Edinboro University.
With usual No. 1 Cohen taking the day off, SRU did not miss a beat as Lugmayr and Page and Warner and Fadden cruised to doubles victories which allowed for a strong start on the scoreboard.
Lugmayr, Warner, Fadden and Welch each picked up singles wins over the Fighting Scots (1-15, 1-1). Meredith credited his squad’s depth in setting them apart from other top teams in the conference.
“We have depth and you’re seeing that,” said Meredith. “If you look at the match against West Liberty, we beat them 7-0 and it was because of our depth. The top teams like IUP and Mercyhurst are losing in those spots while we’re winning in those spots.”
Page drew a challenging matchup against Edinboro’s Tatiana Batalla while acting as SRU’s No. 2 with Cohen out. A hard-fought 6-3, 1-6, 8-10 result allowed the Fighting Scots to pick up their only point on the day, but Meredith emphasized how Page can use that experience to grow as a young tennis player.
“That’s a tough opponent to play and for her to keep her calm, composure and sportsmanship is more important than winning every match,” Meredith said. “In my book, that was a win because she fought right there with her. If four or five shots there were in are called the other way, she probably wins that match.”
With each member of the team playing a role in picking up two key conference wins, Meredith expressed his pleasure at how well the women have come together as a team.
“That tells me a lot about where we are as a team. It doesn’t matter if it’s the six or one, they all count as a point. It’s the team,” Meredith said.
A weekend matchup with West Virginia State University on April 6 begins a four-match stretch away from home for SRU. The Rock returns to the SRU Tennis Courts on April 16 for a PSAC-West contest with Clarion University.
Currently leading the PSAC-West and in line for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, Meredith has the team focused on one thing.
“That’s our motto right now: believe in your ability,” Meredith said.