On Saturday, Jan. 22, the Villanova women’s tennis team traveled to Bucknell University and fell to the Bison, 4-3, in its first match of the spring season. Bucknell leads the all-time series between the two teams by a margin of 14-9, but Saturday was the first time in the last five meetings that the Bison emerged victorious.
The doubles teams fell short for the Wildcats, losing all three matchups on the day, two of which were decided on a tie-breaking point. The first match pitted the Bison’s Daniela Bellini and Whitney King against the Wildcat’s junior Annalize Klopfer and senior Emily Strande. Strande and Klopfer were both first team all-Big East selections last season and are expected to be the veteran leaders for the Wildcat squad this season, the Bison were able to pull off the first win, beating the Wildcat duo, seven games to six.
The number two position for doubles saw freshman Emma Brogan and senior Sabina Grigorian face the Bison’s Tyne Miller and Laurel Utterback. Brogan and Grigorian suffered the same fate as Klopfer and Strande, losing the set, seven games to five. In the third and final set, Wildcat sophomore Bella Steffen and senior Olivia Kapp went up against Anna Lajos and Madi Sebulsky, losing seven games to six. The three victories gave the Bison a 1-0 lead entering the singles matchups.
During singles play, the Wildcats started strong with junior Amanda Rivera-Gonzalez in their number one position. Gonzalez showed an impressive performance and was able to defeat Kate Novak in two sets, by scores of 7-6 and 6-2, evening the overall score.
The Bison responded in the second match between Miller and Brogan. Miller quickly won the first set, 6-3, but Brogan bounced back to win the second set, 6-4. In the end, Miller was able to take the match, winning the third set, 6-2.
In a game of back and forth, the Wildcats answered their No. 2 position defeat with a win in the third. Klopfer lost the first set to Bellini, 4-6, but responded quickly with a win in the second set, 6-3. In the third set, Klopfer was able to secure the match, 6-2, once again evening the total score at two wins a piece.
The Bisons held it together after this loss and were able to win the fourth match as King took on Strande, winning 7-5 in the first set. Strande was unable to respond, resulting in a 6-0, two-set victory for King.
The Wildcats weren’t ready to go home yet, securing a two-set win in the fifth position matchup. Junior Caitlin Fisher brought a newfound energy for the Wildcats, winning the first set against Utterback, 6-3. Fisher closed out the match in the second set with a 6-4 win, making the score 3-3 entering the final match of the day.
Lajos faced off against Steffen in a final three-set match. Lajos took the first set, 7-6, but Steffen adjusted and came back to win the second set 7-5. In the last set, Lajos was able to gain the edge over Steffen winning 6-2 and securing the overall match victory for the Bison with a final score of 4-3.
In their next match, the Wildcats will be heading to Annapolis, Maryland to face the United States Naval Academy on Sunday, Jan. 30. In the nine matchups between the two teams, the Wildcats have never been able to defeat Navy or even earn more than two points in a match. Behind efforts from Strande and Klopfer, the ‘Cats will look to turn this around on Sunday.