As UR students caught the final warmth from the Indian summer this weekend, the men’s and women’s tennis teams traveled to Texas and suffered some heat of their own.

The two squads sent their top two seeded players to compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Tournament but finished highest at fourth place with sophomore Joanna Toke.

Despite coming off a couple weeks of power strokes this season, capturing the ITA regional title as well as the NY State Championship, the Yellowjackets stopped short of their goal of being a national champ.

Coming into the competition, Toke was seeded second in the Div. III singles bracket behind Elena Blanina of Methodist College.

Blanina had defeated Toke in the NCAA Div. III’s national individual singles championships last spring.

However, there was no re-match for Toke and Blanina. Toke was stopped short in the semifinals Friday morning, when she was beaten by Mary Ellen Gordon of Emory University, 6-1, 6-4.

“I really wanted to play Blanina again in the final,” Toke said. “But unfor-tunately, I ran into a player who was playing extremely well.”

Earlier, Toke had defeated Erika Proko of Washington & Lee University with relative ease in the first round Thursday afternoon, 6-2, 6-3.

And Toke knew she was up for some serious competition, but did not anticipate an early retire.

Saturday, Toke tried to re-group as she headed into regroup as she headed into a consolation match with Julia Lebedeva of Beloit, but could not pull off a victory. Toke suffered a major loss, 6-0, 6-2.

In doubles play, Toke and doubles partner, senior Rachel Sandler, also faced solid competition.

Despite not being able to head off one-on-one, Toke met up with Blanina in the doubles rally.

However, Blanina and her partner Carla Simpson proved to be the better team that day, ousting the UR duo with a score of 8-1.

Blanina and Simpson were seeded No. 1 in the tournament.

“I think Rachel and I did very well and it was unfortunate that we drew the No. 1 seeds in the first round,” she said.

“I didn’t mind losing to Blaninas in doubles at all,” Toke added. “She won the tournament in doubles last year and again this year, so she is obviously a good player and there is nothing to be disappointed about.”

On the men’s side of the ITA tournament, sophomores Colin Ryan and Dan Williford headed to Texas with high spirits ? an attitude that was justified by their records.

Ryan and Williford both earned All-University Athletic Association honors last spring and are the first and second-seeded singles players for UR.

“My expectation [for the ITAs] was that the competition was going to be really tough and that we would have to play well in order to win,” Williford said.

However, the men skidded off the running for the crown as they lost their first two matches with identical scores of 8-2.

They lost to Nick Cunningham and Carlos Gonzales of the University of California in Santa Cruz in the first round. Cunningham proved to be a talented foe. Playing with a different partner last spring, he was ranked No. 1 in doubles play by the ITA.

But the men knew that competing against the No. 1 seed was not an excuse for defeat.

“I personally thought that we had a chance to win the whole thing. We brought our best games to the table,” Ryan said.

“I think that my personal performance was not that great,” he added. “I had a real difficulty dealing with the wind when we played.”

The bad luck continued for Ryan in the consolation round.

The men dropped off the top three by a loss to Alex Jacobs and Mark Ogders of Emory in the first consolation match.

Despite the disappointment, Ryan and Williford did pick up a win in the consolation rounds against Scott Fisk and Marshall Kuresman of DePaul Univeristy. The men finished seventh.

“I think as a team, we are capable of so much,” Ryan said.

“Expect big things,”he added, “because I think that our team expects big.”

The Yellowjackets will look to pick up its swing again in the spring. They will head into their competitive season in early March.

Wu can be reached at jwu@campustimes.org.



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