With a decisive 5-1 victory over SUNY New Paltz on Oct. 13, the women’s tennis team claimed its fifth SUNYAC title in six years. The Knights, who finish the fall season at 11-1, also booked a trip to the NCAA tournament with their triumph in the tournament, which also included 5-0 wins over SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Oneonta.
Despite the margin of victory, Geneseo did not enter the tournament lacking adversity. An ankle injury to junior Dexuan Yuan, who plays second singles and teams with her sister junior Minxuan Yuan at second doubles, forced head coach Jim Chen to shuffle his lineup. Although they were held out of singles competition in the tournament opener against Plattsburgh, Dexuan Yuan and Minxuan Yuan won their second doubles match 8-1 to help Geneseo to a 5-0 victory.
The next day, Geneseo faced off with Oneonta. Again, Geneseo was able to win all three doubles matches. The wins that clinched the match for the Knights came from freshmen Karli Hollins, who won 6-2, 6-0 at fourth singles and Maggie Hale, who won 6-2, 6-2 at fifth singles.
The championship match against New Paltz saw some hotly contested doubles matches. While Hollins and Hale cruised 8-1 at third doubles, Dexuan Yuan and Minxuan Yuan fell at second doubles 8-6. With the teams tied 1-1, junior Amanda Rosati and sophomore Marylen Santos gutted out an 8-6 win at first doubles to give Geneseo the advantage.
The depth of the Knights’ team showed next, as the bottom half of the singles roster posted victories to defend Geneseo’s crown. Hollins won 6-2, 6-3 at fourth singles, Hale triumphed 6-2, 6-4 at fifth singles and Minxuan Yuan took a 6-0, 6-0 victory at sixth singles.
After the tournament, Chen quickly turned the attention on his players.
“The team peaked at the right time,” he said. “I can’t sing the praises of the team loud enough. When the chips [are] down, these players have a lot of fight in them.”
Even though his players were the ones on the court, Chen deserves recognition as well, as he was given SUNYAC Coach of the Year honors for the third straight year. With more than 120 wins over 12 years at the helm of the program, Chen has cemented his status as one of the top coaches in the league, if not the region.
In the spring, Chen will lead the team he regards as “pretty special” against bigger, tougher opponents in preparation for the NCAA tournament.
“I look at these next several months as a charm; I revel in this kind of stuff,” Chen said. “We know that we are relatively good, [and] we know that we can get better.”
While he acknowledged that it will not happen this year, Geneseo is moving ever closer to being able to accomplish what Chen said is his loftiest dream for the team: “Ultimately, we want to be national champions.”