#4 Panthers stunned by #5 Worcester State for second straight year
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Fifth-seeded Worcester State University won two-of-three doubles matches, then came out strong in singles play, to defeat fourth-seeded Plymouth State University, 5-2, in the first round of the Little East Conference Women's Tennis Tournament at the Holderness School Courts.
The Lancers (9-5 overall) advance to face top-seeded and undefeated Rhode Island College in the semifinal round on Thursday. Plymouth State ends the fall season with a 10-5 mark.
WSU, who also recorded a 5-1 upset victory over the Panthers in last year's tournament, played aggressive from the start. Junior Nathalie Khafaga and freshman Dominque Alves were double-winners for the Lancers, while freshman Chloe Knapp (Jamestown, N.Y.) had a hand in both of the Panthers' points.
"Chloe played well in both singles and doubles," praised head coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett. "But our doubles play was not as aggressive as theirs today. They [Worcester State] played very well today."
Senior Alexis Silk (Greenfield, Mass.) and freshman Emma Collings (Marion, Mass.) earned an 8-3 win over freshman Maggie McCarthy (Marion, Mass.) and junior Megan Wheeler (Manchester, N.H.) at No. 2 doubles to give the visitors an early lead. Then Khafaga and Alves teamed up to stop freshman Sage Winter (New Castle, N.H.) and junior Irene Kigugu (Concord, N.H.) at No. 1 doubles by the same 8-3 margin, but the dynamic duo of freshmen Jenna Sundquist (Monument Beach, Mass.) and Knapp continued their incredible season as partners with a 9-8 (7-4) win over senior Rachel Green (Worcester, Mass.) and freshman Marisa Lombardi (Ludlow, Mass.) at No. 3 doubles.
Alves and Khafaga extended the Lancers' advantage to 4-1 after earning straight sets victories at No. 4 and No. 2 singles respectively. Alves topped freshman Kerstin Venincasa (Sutton, Mass.) by a 6-0, 6-2 score, with Khafaga getting past McCarthy, 6-3, 6-1. Knapp extended the match, holding off freshman Monika Mularski (Auburn, Mass.) at No. 6 singles, 6-2, 6-3, to bring PSU to within 4-2, but Green was able to get past Sundquist, 6-3, 6-1, at No. 5 singles to secure the win for Worcester State.
Despite the unexpected end to the season the future looks bright for the Panthers. Without a single senior on the roster, all 13 players are expected back. Additionally, the freshman class – Winter, McCarthy, Sundquist, Knapp, Venincasa, Emily Hill (New Hartford, Conn.) and Melissa Pellegrino (Cranston, R.I.) – accounted for 40 of the team's 55 wins in singles play.
Knapp finished the fall with a remarkable 12-1 record in singles play, while Sundquist and McCarthy both posted 8-4 marks. Winter finished 6-6, playing almost exclusively at No. 1 singles, and Kigugu went a respectable 6-4 for the year.
On the doubles side, Sundquist and Knapp were exceptional. The duo combined to go a perfect 9-0 when teamed together. Knapp finished 13-2 in doubles play overall, with Sundquist going 11-2 in pairs action. Dunn performed admirably, going 5-1 while playing in all three doubles slots.
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