The Tribe found plenty of success at last year’s William and Mary Invitational, including a doubles championship secured by the pairing of then-junior Carmen Pop and then-freshman Katie Kargl. But the early success was short-lived as injuries shredded the roster. At some points, the Tribe could not even fill out three doubles pairs for matches.
So when the annual tourney began for the 17th year this weekend at the College, head coach Meredith Geiger-Walton put a premium on what the fall season should mean for her team.
“We didn’t expect to win,” Geiger-Walton said. “We’re just focused on fitness and getting back into playing shape.”
Needless to say, the College decided to play the tournament on the safe side. Now a senior, Pop pulled out of the flight B singles tournament on the first day after losing in the first round to Marshall University’s Catherine Keller in the interest of staying healthy. She and freshman Nina Vulovich did play in the top flight doubles tournament and secured a seventh-place finish in the bracket.
“I have strained quads, so I didn’t want to force it,” said Pop.
The Dutch native wasn’t the only one cautiously playing through her weekend on the courts. Junior Lauren Sabacinski lost two matches in top-flight singles play on Friday, then subsequently dropped from the field, participating only in doubles competition with her partner freshman Marlen Mesgarzadeh. She is recovering from an ACL injury that ended her sophomore season.
“This is her first competitive tennis in about a year,” Geiger-Walton said. “We’re just trying to work her back into it.”
While Pop and Sabacinski made strides to stay fresh, senior Ragini Acharya played in both singles and doubles tournaments all three days. While she did retire from a consolation game Sunday after losing the first set to Virginia’s Erin Vierra, the 107th-ranked Acharya teamed up with freshman Anik Cepeda and came away with third place in the flight A doubles tournament, discarding Winthrop University’s Yassmine Alkema and Elizaveta Zaytseva 8-3.
“Our freshmen bring up our energy and really puts us in a position to be competitive,” Geiger-Walton said. “Our returning players are really excited and are willing to help them learn what Tribe tennis is all about.”
The aggressive, net-playing Cepeda, who also won third place in flight C singles play, was in sync with Acharya’s steady backline-play dominating and frustrating the Eagles’ pair.
“It’s funny when the other team gets mad,” Acharya said. “They told us ‘Good game, cheaters.’”
The mix of veterans and youth in the doubles pairs and cautious singles play will likely continue next weekend, when the Tribe continues their fall schedule in the University of Virginia Invitational.
“Last year, we experienced what you don’t want to happen,” Geiger-Walton said. “This year, we want to get what we want later in the year and just focus on fitness right now.”