Villanova’s women’s tennis team fell short in two matches over the weekend of Friday 1 April and Saturday 2 April. The team lost to St. John’s and Loyola Maryland with 6-1 and 5-2, respectively. The ‘Cats’ had a third game in a row against Providence scheduled for April 3, but the Big East game was canceled midway through when the rain set in on the Villanova pitches. These two back-to-back losses lower the team’s record to 2-7 this season.
Although senior Annalize Klopfer won her fourth singles victory in a row last Friday and moved to a dominant 7-1 singles record this spring, it was not enough to overcome the powerhouse St. John’s, and Villanova failed to win another point against Red Storm.
“With [Klopfer], it’s a bit expected she was All-Big East last year, ”said head coach Steve Reiniger about the number one player’s strong start to this season. “I think she’s been our best player for maybe 20 years.”
Villanova lost the rest of her singles matches against St. John’s in equal sets, but Klopfer and current double partner Emma Brogan, who played up to replace the injured senior Emily Strande, were successful in the first double position, surpassing their opponents in a 7-5 nail-biter. Senior Sabina Grigorian and freshman Valieriia Kornieva were defeated, 6-2, in the second slot, while junior Caitlin Fisher and senior Olivia Kapp were defeated by the same narrow 7-5 margin. Despite losing the double point, Reiniger was encouraged by Friday’s display and the overall progress he has seen in the doubles pairings over the course of the season.
“I think the doubles teams have played better,” he said. “[Against] St. John’s, we actually had two set points at the third double to win the double point, but we got some unlucky breaks so it just did not fall our way. ”
After Friday’s game in Queens, NY, the Wildcats traveled home to Villanova to meet the Loyola Greyhounds on Saturday. Klopfer and Brogan won again in a crucial 6-2 match in the top double-slot to open the day, marking their third victory in four matches as partners. Although the other two pairs each fell, both matches were competitive, with Grigorian and Kornieva suffering a 6-4 loss at No. 2, and Fisher and Kapp falling into a hard-fought 7-5 set in third.
To retain his highest-seeded player for the Big East duel scheduled for the next day against Providence, Reiniger Klopfer withdrew from the singles lineup against Loyola. After playing two places up between Klopfer and Strande’s absence, Brogan was defeated by the Greyhounds’ top player, 6-4, 6-2.
“She had to step into one place as a beginner, so she struggled with her butt, but maybe it’s a little early for her to jump into one place and succeed,” Reiniger said of Brogan’s performance on Saturday. “Next year, if I rain, it seems to be [Brogan] would be our number one player once [Klopfer] and [Strande] graduate.”
Playing at the top of the ranks in this Loyola doubles match will give Brogan valuable experience as she prepares to step into first place next season.
The Wildcats’ two points of the day came in second and third place from Fisher and Kornieva. After losing the first set, 4-6, Fisher gathered from behind to take control of the match. She won the second set, 6-2, and sailed to a 6-0 victory in the third to complete the comeback.
Kornieva started out hot in the third position, shining his opponent, 6-0, and holding on to a 6-4 victory in the second set to win Villanova’s second and final point. Although two of the ‘Cats’ three other matches went to three sets, Kapp, second-year student Bella Steffen and first-year student Chloe Floyd were all eventually defeated to give Loyola the win.
As the season draws to a close, the results of Villanova’s last two Big East matches against UConn and Georgetown are crucial in determining its seeding in the conference tournament. The fight against injury and the exhaustion of playing several games a week, the entire roster must be ready to step into the rotation if necessary.
“I’ve told the team in the past that if you’re not in the singles lineup, you have to prepare as you are,” Reiniger said. “It’s just to make sure we have the necessary depth to compete when players go down, that’s probably the first priority.”
Next, the ‘Cats’ are scheduled to play against local rivals Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday 5 April and Temple on Saturday 9 April. While Temple in particular will pose a challenge for Villanova, winning against these local teams will give the team crucial momentum before battling its last two Big East rivals to end the season.