October 21, 2013

Women's Tennis LEC Preview: Beacons and Corsairs Set For Quarterfinal Matchup

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass.—UMass Boston women's tennis is aiming for their first postseason team win in program history Tuesday, when they travel to UMass Dartmouth for the Little East Conference Quarterfinals Tuesday at 3 p.m.

The Beacons earned the sixth seed in this season's tournament, after a dramatic finish to the regular-season with three straight conference victories. Eric Berg's squad kept their season alive Saturday by defeating Plymouth State University 6-3. The win marked the Beacons first-ever victory over Plymouth State after 12 straight losses.

SETTING THE SCENE: UMass Boston (6-9, 3-5 Little East) is making their second Little East Conference appearance in the past five years and third-total team appearance since the conference switched the tournament format in 2007.

The Beacons are 0-2 in their two previous team appearances, with a 5-0 loss to Rhode Island College in 2008 and a 5-1 loss at the hands of Plymouth State University in 2011.

UMass Dartmouth (9-3, 6-2 Little East) is looking for the first Little East Tournament Title since 2008, when the Corsairs downed Bridgewater State University 5-3.

The Corsairs have qualified for the LEC Tournament each of the past six years and have posted a 6-4 overall record. 

GAME PREVIEW: UMass Dartmouth has dominated the all-time series with a 9-1 mark against the Beacons, but this year's regular-season contest was the closest UMass Boston has been in years, in defeating their conference rival.

The Beacons took a 2-1 lead after doubles play at the UMass Dartmouth Athletic Complex Tennis Courts and extended their advantage to 3-1 with a win at number two singles, only to eventually fall 5-4.

The host team won four straight singles matches to earn the victory, as the Corsairs swept the bottom four singles points.

SCOUTING THE BEACONS: Despite only returning three players, only two of which played on the team a year ago, the Beacons earned an unlikely playoff spot. After starting the year 0-5 in conference, Eric Berg, the reigning Little East Conference Coach of the Year on the men's side, led a Beacons roster that featured just two upperclassmen to three straight conference wins to cap off the year.

While the Beacons received strong play at the top all season from Nuha Muntasser (Braintree, Mass.) and Anitra Kloczewiak (Newton, Mass.), UMass Boston's late-season push has been spurred by their doubles play and especially strong play from freshman Kelsey Shea (West Bridgewater, Mass.) and Kathleen Conroy (Quincy, Mass.).

The Beacons closed the season winning 10 of their final 12 doubles matches, including earning sweeps in their conference wins over Salem State, Western Connecticut State and Plymouth State University.

Samantha Counts (Bridgewater, Mass.) and Kloczewiak led the Beacons with their 8-4 mark at number one doubles and Solveig Castelli (Precojo, France) and Muntasser were just as strong, earning a 6-2 record at second doubles.

Third doubles was where the Beacons saw their biggest improvement as the season went on, as Shea earned three wins with both sophomore Logan Smith (Southwick, Mass.) and freshman Vicky Woytowicz (Springfield, Mass.). After starting the year 2-7 at the third doubles spot, UMass Boston earned four wins in their final six matches at number three doubles.

The s top portion of the Beacons' singles lineup has been fairly unchanged since the start of the season, with Muntasser, Kloczewiak and Counts in the lineup pretty much every match.

Muntasser (10-4) and Kloczewiak (12-2) each won their singles match against the Corsairs, while Counts has been one of the most consistent players in UMass Boston program history.

Nurcin Celebi (Istanbul, Turkey) and Castelli have switched between fourth and fifth singles throughout the season, with Conroy filling in at number five singles when either player was forced to miss a match. Conroy and Shea (number six singles) combined for a 9-10 record in singles play, including five wins against LEC foes. 

SCOUTING THE CORSAIRS: First-year head coach Doug Chapman led the Corsairs to the third-seed in the Little East Conference Tournament this year behind a 6-2 mark in Little East play.

Despite lopsided losses to top-seeded Bridgewater State University and second-seeded Rhode Island College, the Corsairs dominated the rest of the conference, winning 6-3 or better in five of their six wins.

Champman returned four All-Conference players from last year's squad that earned the number two seed in the LEC Tournament, before being upset by Plymouth State University in the semifinal round.

Seniors Casey Auman, Nicole Pelletier and Angela Pollard led the Corsairs during the regular season with 13 wins apiece, with Auman leading the way with her team-best 76 percent winning percentage.

Number one and two singles players Nicole Pelletier and Hannah Schulze also teamed up to play doubles together, with the duo finishing 3-1 in Little East play. 

As a team the Corsairs fared much better in singles play than doubles, with an above .500 winning percentage at five of the six singles spots. 

KEY TO THE MATCH: Saturday's win over Plymouth State University continued to prove how much doubles play can influence the final results for the Beacons. After earning the doubles sweep, UMB carried that momentum into singles play with back-to-back wins to clinch the match and a playoff spot.

On the year UMass Boston is now 6-1 when winning two or more doubles matches, with their lone loss coming against the Corsairs. If UMB can find a way to sweep the doubles play, that could be a difference in moving on to Thursday afternoon's Little East Conference Semifinals. 

LOOKING FORWARD: The winner of Tuesday's match will travel to take on second-seeded Rhode Island College Thursday at 2:30. Top-seeded Bridgewater State University will host the winner of #4 Worcester State University and #5 University of Maine Thursday at 2 p.m.