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ISSUE 118 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/18/2005

Oles fall in close match

By Joel Stjernholm
Sports Editor

Friday, March 18, 2005

Despite a solid effort and several close matches, the St. Olaf women’s tennis team fell to St. Thomas 5-4 last Friday in Owatonna.

One particularly bright spot in the match was the Oles’ performance in doubles competition. Beth Erie ‘05 and Kristen Buchta ‘05 earned the first doubles win, and Lauren E. Benson ‘06 and Emily Eggert ’06 won the second doubles match.

The St. Thomas match, one which many members of the St. Olaf women’s team thought they could win, is reflective of the intense competition amongst teams dueling for top MIAC honors. Though Gustavus is expected to win the MIAC without great difficulty, the Oles and Tommies are locked in a battle with St. Kate’s and Carleton to fill out the top half of the conference.

While St. Thomas, which finished in a three-way tie with Carleton and St. Kate’s for second last season, edged the Oles in midseason play, the Oles could certainly defeat the Tommies in the MIAC tournament, as the score of Friday’s match illustrates.

The Oles have endured a difficult schedule, playing Gustavus, St. Cloud State and St. Thomas all early in the season. Though their current record is about even, the Oles expect this tough competition to build their match competence as the season progresses. If this strategy is effective, the Oles will be positioned to upset teams such as Carleton, St. Kate’s and St. Thomas at the conference championships.

In addition to rigorous competition at home, the team is spending spring break in South Carolina, competing against Olivet Nazarene, Luther, Whitman, Stevens Institute of Technology and Hope College. In addition to the excitement of playing teams they don’t typically meet, the Ole women expect these teams to provide tough competition as well.

Also, playing in South Carolina will give the team much-needed experience playing outdoors, where wind, dampness, court conditions, sun and noise all factor into matches.

Traditionally, head coach Scott Nesbit has taken care to ensure a smooth transition from the indoor season to the outdoor season, and this spring will be no different.

With much of their schedule and effort focused on success at the conference tournament, expectations of the team are high. The Oles are expected to finish fifth at the competition. Gustavus will be tough for anyone to stop, but considering the Gusties’ close match with St. Thomas and St. Olaf’s early season success against St. Cloud State, the Ole women are realistically one or two upsets from a third or even second place finish. If the women continue to improve and develop as they have thus far this season, they will be a legitimate threat at the MIAC tournament.

Given their spring break plans, the women will not compete in Minnesota again until their match against Concordia April 2. The match is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

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