When a team only returns two players from the previous year’s squad, and adds six freshmen, you would expect them to experience some growing pains. The new players have adapted to the college game quickly, and the two returnees have led the Yellowjackets to a considerable amount of success thus far in the fall season. Although there is a large turnover from last year’s squad, UR is still ranked #19 nationally. This is a testament to the talent that the new class has brought in.
UR opened its season September 27-29 at the ITA tournament at William Smith College. Freshman Michelle Punj, who opened her collegiate career as UR’s number one player, advanced all the way to the semi-finals of the tournament before bowing out in the semifinals. The team’s co-captains senior Tara Pajoohi and junior Maithili Jha teamed up at number one doubles, and made it all the way to the finals, where they were defeated by a team from the College of New Jersey.
A week later the Yellowjackets hosted their first match at home against the Dutchwomen of Union College. Union spoiled UR’s home debut by squeaking out a hard-fought 5-4 victory. UR was dominated in the singles matches as Union won four out of the six contests.
Michelle Punj was defeated by Lauren Stellato at number one singles 6-3, 6-3. UR received a reprieve at the second singles spot, as Maithili Jha won by default. The Yellowjackets also won at number three, as Pajoohi 6-1, 6-2. UR’s fourth seeded player Jill Ardornetto was only able to win one game in losing to Meghan Denefrio 6-0, 6-1. Alex Kravis, the 5th seeded Rochester player put up a good fight, but lost to Jen Laurosech 6-3, 6-3. Finally, Christina Murray rounded out the singles falling to Sarah Boston 6-3, 6-0.
In the doubles, UR’s top seeded team of Punj and Ardonetto defeated Vercillo and Laurosech 9-8. The Yellowjackets second ranked team of Jha and Pajoohi also squeezed out a tight victory in winning 9-7. However, in the decisive match the Union team of Aimee Talleur and Denefrio defeated Kravis and Murray 8-5.
After the tough defeat the Yellowjackets responded Tuesday night by defeating Nazareth 6-3. The team knew the importance of a quick start after the Union loss, and answered by winning the first three singles matches.
Punj defeated Beccha Lenhard 6-2, 7-5. Jha followed by topping Andrea Gaddis 6-4, 6-2. Pajoohi was nearly flawless at the three spot, in winning 6-1, 6-0.
Ardornetto struggled again, as Nazareth won its first match 6-2, 6-3. At the five singles, Alex Kravis pulled off a tough three set victory 6-3, 6-7, 7-4 over Ann Kucheryavenko. Nazareth won the final singles match as Beth Chela defeated Christin Murray 6-4, 6-2.
In doubles, UR again took two out of three matches. Jha and Pajoohi and Punj and Ardornetto each defeated their respective opponents 8-4. The Yellowjackets third seeded doubles team of Alex Kravis and Christin Murray weren’t as successful as they succumbed to Robin Medina and Angela Tessoni also by the same 8-4 score.
Members of the Women’s tennis team knew that the beginning of the season would not be easy. “It’s definitely going to be a rebuilding year, because we are so young,” Punj said.
“Mainly most of us have to get used to the higher competition in college tennis. The players are quicker, more talented, and more consistent than the ones we faced in high school,” she added.
UR travels to St. Lawrence this weekend for the UCAA Championships.
The Yellowjackets conclude their fall season next weekend at the New York State Championships at Cornell.
Rybaltowski can be reached at email@example.com.