GVSU sweeps weekend, stays perfect

GVL / Emily Frye  
Sophomore Aimee Moccia makes a hard hit against Saginaw Valley State University on Sat. Sep. 12th.

GVL / Emily Frye Sophomore Aimee Moccia makes a hard hit against Saginaw Valley State University on Sat. Sep. 12th.

Beau Troutman

After a successful road trip last weekend, the Grand Valley State women’s tennis team hosted GLIAC foes Saginaw Valley State and Northwood in the Lakers’ home-opening weekend.

It was more of the same for GVSU, as it came away with a 7-2 victory over the Cardinals and 6-3 over the Timberwolves.

GVSU’s impeccable performance in doubles play continued. In the match against SVSU, the three-seed pairing of Abby Perkins and Livia Christman won 8-2, while the two-seed pairing of Madison Ballard and Alexa Sweeney took a close match, 9-7.

Once those matches were completed, all eyes were on the one-seed pairing of sophomores Aimee Moccia and Rachel Sumner, who faced SVSU’s Erin Doud and Ana Pico.

The match was back and forth until the end, with points coming after long periods of play. The Lakers tied the pro set it at 8-8 after a perfect groundstroke from Sumner, but SVSU just eked by and took the final game and the match, 9-8.

Although the top seed fell, the Lakers were happy to get two out of three.

“We had a strong lead in doubles, but we were able to close the gap. It was a little shift in momentum in the middle, but we ended up regrouping and finished how we started,” Sweeney said.

Doubles play has been a point of emphasis of this season for the Lakers. Their early success is a good sign, but is far from a finished product.

“There has been tremendous improvement in doubles since the first day of practice in August, but there is still a long way to go,” said head coach John Black. “We are doing a lot of things right, but also have to keep improving.”

The Lakers’ success in doubles carried over to singles, where they took five of six matches from SVSU.

Christman has won all of her matches from the fourth seed so far this season, and is undefeated from the third seed in doubles with sophomore Perkins.

A former two-star recruit who posted a 107-8 career record at Allegan High School, Christman has exceeded expectations thus far. While she’s honored to be the highest-seeded freshman on the team, she’s happy to contribute any way she can.

“I’m proud of myself for getting here, but I’m just happy to be on the team overall, no matter where I play. I’m just happy to be here,” Christman said.

The lone loss in singles play for the Lakers came from Perkins, the top seed, against SVSU junior Izabella Ismailova.

Ismailova, standing at 5-feet-9-inches, has a penchant for powerful serves and it’s evident why she holds the No. 1 seed for the Cardinals.

Perkins took the first set 6-4, but Ismailova took the momentum with a strong second set, 6-1. Perkins was visibly frustrated, voicing her displeasure with her mistakes throughout the match.

The third set was the only extra set of the day, and Ismailova picked up where she left off in the second set with a 5-1 advantage.

It appeared to be over, but Perkins set aside her frustration and stormed back, tying the score at 5-5.

With the third set at 9-7 in Ismailova’s favor, Perkins needed to answer. Ismailova sent a volley over Perkins’ head, and the ball appeared to land just out of bounds. Perkins called it out, but the line judge overruled her and called it in bounds, ending the game.

Despite the loss, Black likes what he saw out of his top seed.

“She fought hard and it didn’t go her way, but she almost came back and won the tiebreaker after being down big time. You have to have fight, you have to play every point like its match point. She did that, and it’s a good sign,” he said.

The Lakers prevailed again Sunday, winning a key matchup against Northwood, 6-3. GVSU took a major step forward in doubles play, sweeping the Timberwolves 3-0. The No.1 seed pairing of Moccia and Sumner rebounded after Saturday’s tight loss, and won 8-6 against Northwood in another tough match.

Sumner stepped up for the Lakers, and repeatedly made plays throughout the match. Many points came from perfectly struck groundstrokes that were virtually unreturnable for the Timberwolves.

Having impressive wins in the doubles was key, but Black knew the Lakers couldn’t ease up if they wanted to walk out of today with a victory.

“3-0 start is a great start, but I knew all of the singles were going to be really tight,” he said. “We had to play extremely strong singles for us to finish the match and get the win.”

The Lakers split 3-3 in singles matches. Five out of the six singles went to extra sets, and three out of those five required tiebreaker sets.

Perkins, after a frustrating loss Saturday, regrouped and won against the Cardinals top seed, Carol Arnez-Mercado. Perkins dropped the first set 5-7, won the second 7-6 (7-4) in a tiebreaker, and wrapped it up in the final set 6-2.

“Today I felt like I stepped up and redeemed myself, and I’m really confident in myself and in the team,” Perkins said.

Although today was a marquee win for the Lakers, Black says there’s still room for improvement, and wants to see his team keep progressing.

“Today was our best match of the year, but we have to keep improving, keep playing better. I don’t think we’ve hit our peak, but we’re going to keep improving and keep fighting,” he said.

The Lakers will be home again next weekend, when they take on Wayne State on Friday and Hillsdale on Sunday.