GVSU loses against Lynn in NCAA Division ll Women’s Tennis Championship Sweet Sixteen


Rosemary Booher

The Grand Valley State Lakers faced off against the Lynn Fighting Knights Wednesday, May 22nd, in Altamonte Springs, Florida. There the Lakers played in their last match of the season, getting knocked out of the NCAA tournament by the Fighting Knights with a score of 4-0.

GVSU was looking forward to their match up against Lynn — they prepared not only for the upcoming opponents, but also for the change of weather.

“After the regional tournament, we only had three practices before departing for Florida, so I focused on keeping the team sharp and working on what they individually felt needed the most work,” said head coach John Black. “Once we arrived in Florida, we had two days of practice to get acclimated to the heat.”

Once the day to compete had arrived, GVSU’s doubles fought hard until the end. Lynn had gained an early lead by scoring the first points with the No. 1 and No. 3 parings both winning. The No. 1 Laker pairing of Marija Leko and Madison Ballard lost 6-0, the No.3 paring of Nicole Heiniger and Livia Christman were beaten 6-1 and the last doubles pair, No. 2, consisting of Vera Griva and Marily Canellopoulos was also defeated by Lynn.

The singles matches did not have much luck either, as the Fighting Knights were able to score three more points in a row to end the match. With the scores of 6-1 and 6-0, Ballard from the No. 2 spot was defeated. From the No. 3 spot, Leko was also beaten 6-1 and 6-1. Lastly, Canellopoulos from the No. 4 position dropped a 6-0 and 6-1 decision.

The defeat was not an entire loss however, as Black said there is much to be taken away from playing such a strong team.

“It was a great experience to play Lynn,” Black said. “Lynn was undefeated and No. 1 in the country in the national rankings. Lynn’s top 4 players all had top 1000 Women’s Tennis Association professional rankings typically a player top 300 in the world will be playing in the US Open, Wimbledon and playing them quickly showed us where we have to get to as players to compete for national championships.”

The experience also provided the team to play their hearts out, giving them a platform to end the season against a notable team.

“During the match, my ladies competed at 100 percent start to finish, left everything they had on the courts and made Lynn beat us,” Black said. “For the seniors, reaching the Sweet Sixteen was the perfect cap to their careers. For the freshman, playing Lynn and advancing to the national finals will hopefully inspire them to push themselves to become the best tennis players they can.”

With their heads held high the Lakers left the tournament still proud of all that they had achieved throughout this season.

“This season was a huge success,” Black said. “On the courts, we won the GLIAC with a lineup consisting of three freshmen in the top 4 spots. The team improved through the year, played strong in the spring and peaked at just the right time in the NCAA regional tournament to beat a Wayne State team that had beaten us twice in the fall. Off the courts, the ladies came together as a team, did an outstanding job in the classroom and were a pleasure to work with this year.”

Now in the offseason, the team still has much work to do to get ready to compete again for next year.

“The team will be working hard to improve their doubles and singles play,” Black said.  “Fitness and strength over the summer is also extremely important not only for the on-court effects, but to help prevent and minimize injuries.”