Despite team shift, tennis dominates Naz

The women’s tennis team picked up where it left off last season, cruising to an 8-1 victory over Nazareth College on Aug. 3 in both teams’ first match of the year.

The win marked the fourth time in many years that the Knights beat the Golden Eagles to start the fall season.

The win came despite the fact that the Knights lost seven starters from last season’s SUNYAC championship team: five seniors and the Sato sisters – both sophomores – who have returned to Japan on a leave of absence.

“This is a new team,” head coach Jim Chen said. “I wanted to see how they performed … [and] I’m actually very pleased.”

Freshman Mare Santos started at first singles for the Knights and battled back after dropping her first set to win, 4-6, 6-4 (10-7). Chen said Santos was “a little jittery” in the first set but praised her ability to regroup and persevere.

Sophomore Dexuan Yuan won second singles, 7-5, 6-1, while classmate Amanda Rosati clinched fourth singles, 6-2, 6-2.

Senior Katie Talbot dropped the lone point of the day for the Knights, losing 6-7, 1-6 at third singles. Classmate Sarah Shields continued her winning ways from last season by capturing fifth singles, 6-0, 6-0. Talbot and Shields, the only seniors on this young team, serve as co-captains.

In doubles play, Talbot joined with Santos to win first doubles, 8-4.

Rosati and Shields teamed up to win second doubles, 8-3, while sisters Dexuan and Minxuan Yuan won third doubles, 8-2. Chen said he was especially impressed with the doubles wins, as Nazareth’s top two pairings were the same as in 2011, whereas the Knights fielded three new doubles teams.

“[Nazareth was] ahead most of the match … [and] we came on really strong,” Chen said.

Due to the turnover from last season, Chen said he had to change his preseason training regimen. In the past he had spent significant time on nutrition and fitness, but this year, he decided to focus more on general principles and the strategic elements of the game. He said his team’s technical strategy is on par with “any Division I program. We study the pros [and] what techniques they use.”

The Knights will have time to work on such techniques – and bolster their confidence – in the first half of the season when they will face the weaker portion of their schedule.

Looking ahead, Chen said he wants his players to improve on their “sharp tolerance” – a term coined by the coach that refers to how often a player hits the ball over the net with “significant power and accuracy.”

According to Chen, if the team can work on this, it should be able to handle not only SUNY Oswego on Sept. 6, but any team in the SUNYAC conference.