By Jordan Rinard, Senior Staff Writer
The Miami University women's tennis team clinched its 20th outright Mid-American Conference title with a 4-3 victory over Ball State University in Hamilton on Senior Day. The RedHawks (14-6, 8-0 MAC) won their 13th straight MAC match and ninth consecutive match overall as it went unblemished in conference play for the first time since the 2012 season.
"We won the match, but we're not there yet," head coach Yana Carrolo said. "We did a good job of pulling together for the win and we had exceptional performances from our seniors. We're not happy with our overall performance as a team. With the MAC Tournament, we need to be focused on competition, since teams will be coming after us. So we'll have to bring extra fighting, extra guts, and extra hits."
In doubles play, senior Christine Guerrazzi and freshman Nelli Ponomareva downed the No. 74 tandem of sophomore Rosalinda Calderon and junior Courtney Earnest 6-3. Sophomore Andreea Badileanu and senior Ramona Costea fell 6-2 to sophomore Toni Ormond and senior Ashlyn Rang.
Freshman Hannah Shteyn and senior Alix Thurman clinched the doubles point for Miami with a 6-4 victory over juniors Bethany Moore and Courtney Wild. The pair finished the regular season 8-0 in MAC doubles.
Ball State tied the match 1-1 after Badileanu lost the No. 2 singles match 6-2, 6-2 to Earnest. However, Shteyn won her eighth straight match in a 6-3, 6-2 decision over Moore at No. 5 singles to retake Miami's lead. Shteyn is undefeated in MAC singles. Ponomareva's 6-2, 6-2 loss to Rang at No. 4 singles tied the match again.
The remaining three points were decided by MU's three seniors. Guerrazzi dropped straight sets to Ormond at No. 3 singles. Her 6-4, 6-1 decision loss gave the Cardinals their first lead of the match. Costea took her match 6-3, 6-4 over freshman Olivia Large at No. 6 singles to tie the match up once again.
Thurman's 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 No. 1 singles win clinched the match for the RedHawks.
"It was a good match for us, showing us that we can be better," Carrolo said. "We were good in doubles, where we've been at our strongest all season, but we need to be more focused in our singles."
Miami faces the winner of Eastern Michigan University and the University of Toledo 10 a.m. Saturday in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament.
"I believe that yesterday's match was a great preparation for what we're going to encounter in the MAC Tournament," Costea said. "Our opponents fought hard and were determined to do whatever it was necessary to shake up our confidence. However, I think we did a great job at striking back and dealing with pressure on each court in both singles and doubles, and that is something that will help us heading into the weekend. We also have a great team chemistry that enabled us to pull out the close win, and as long as we maintain it throughout this upcoming weekend, we will have a great chance to qualify for the NCAAs."