Tennis: Tigers rely on nationally ranked players
The men’s team begins the main part of its season against Fairleigh Dickinson and Bucknell this weekend but already has some tough road matches under its belt. The Tigers’ most notable victory came against No. 40 Michigan State. They also played Michigan, Columbia and Harvard down to the wire but came up on the losing side of those games.
The early season losses hurt the Tigers’ chances of receiving an at-large bid to the National Championships and put even more emphasis on winning the Ivy League and receiving an automatic spot.
“Columbia is certainly a favorite to win Ivies along with Harvard. I like to think that we are up there too,” head coach Billy Pate said. “We played these teams tight, and next time the matches could fall in our favor.”
Pate points to the depth of his roster as one of the biggest strengths of the team. At the same time, however, carrying 12 guys makes practice — especially when the courts in Jadwin Gymnasium are limited — a challenge. Pate emphasizes that his team must make the most of its practices and feels that it has done so this winter.
“The guys come to practice every day and want to compete,” Pate said. “Even when we are doing drills, the guys make everything into competition. They are always keeping score and being competitive.”
Princeton will be led by senior Matija Pecotic throughout the season, who will play at the first singles spot. Pecotic, currently ranked third in the nation, has been a rock for the Tigers over the past few seasons. Between his singles and doubles play with sophomore Zack McCourt, he has a massive on-court presence felt by the entire team.
The women’s team has also been working hard over the winter to get in shape for the season. The Tigers have done a lot of drilling over the past few weeks and are now shifting the focus more toward match play and specific point scenarios. Over the course of the week, the team hopes to enhance its match confidence and even bring in some outside hitters or some members of the men’s team as extra practice in preparation for facing a top-ranked Duke team on Saturday.
The women, like the men, will rely heavily on the top of their lineup. Sophomore Lindsay Graff and freshman Amanda Muliawan have proved a reliable one-two punch for the Tigers in singles. Both players will likely be vying for the top spot throughout the season, which head coach Laura Granville sees as healthy competition.
“In tennis on any given day, any player can beat anyone else. Amanda and Lindsay have been great about being competitive and at the same time teammates,” Granville said. “Amanda understands that, for now, Lindsay has the experience and is the number one. It is really about how they are feeling, and there haven’t been any issues at all so far.”
Granville believes that the lineup should be flexible and will change throughout the season. She is especially adamant about mixing and matching doubles pairs to find the best fits. The doubles matches, which collectively determine the first point of the match, are important for setting the tone and providing momentum.
The team looks to its lone senior, Monica Chow, as a leader. Chow, along with junior Katherine Flanigan, carry experience to help freshmen Muliawan and Emily Hahn, who are blending into the team after an adjustment period of playing collegiate tennis for the first time. The women said they hope to continue the success of years past and return the Ivy League title back to Princeton for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
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