After suffering a blowout loss to Duke’s Reka Zsilinszka, the No. 4 singles player in the nation, freshman Hope Johnson and the Tribe left Durham, N.C. Saturday with redemption on their minds. Saturday conjured images of a painful, 7-0 defeat to the No. 7 Blue Devils in which the Tribe managed to win just one out of its nine matches. Sunday, however, provided promise and redemption against a talented Wisconsin squad.
Sunday, Johnson erased all memories of Saturday’s blowout by providing William and Mary (1-1) with the deciding point in a thrillingly narrow 4-3 victory over the Badgers in the squad’s home opener at the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center in Williamsburg.
“Today’s match was very competitive,” Head Coach Meredith Geiger-Walton said. “We knew Wisconsin was going to come in and be very competitive, they were competitive last year when we played them … It was probably a little closer than I would have liked. We had some chances in some singles matches where we could close it out in two sets, but we didn’t. But those are lessons to be learned and its early enough in the season where we can learn that we need to be a little bit more aggressive on the big points and take it to our opponents more.”
With the Tribe holding a slim 3-2 margin, Johnson prevailed over Wisconsin’s Alaina Trgovich in the No. 2 slot in a hard fought 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 decision. Wisconsin’s Jessica Seyferth went on to defeat freshman Marivick Mamiit 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final match of the day, but Johnson’s victory had already sealed the Tribe win.
“Hope Johnson definitely had a lead and had an advantage in that match, and she let her opponent back in, so she made it a closer match than it probably should have been,” Geiger-Walton said. “Some of that was just her needing to learn how to close things out and feeling the pressure, but she handled it very well, especially for her first home match, and was able to convert at the end.”
After Johnson and sophomore Anik Cepeda secured the doubles point early in the morning by defeating the Badgers’ tandem of Trgovich and Nicky Stracar 9-8 (6), the two squads became locked in a close contest due to very competitive singles play.
Junior Katie Kargl defeated Wisconsin’s Aleksandra Markovic, 6-3, 6-2 and Cepeda prevailed over Hannah Berner 6-1, 6-4 to give the College an early 3-0 edge.
“It looked like Anik Cepeda and Katie Kargl just took care of business,” Geiger-Walton said. “They both won in two sets, and despite Nina losing, she’s coming back from a wrist injury. She really handled herself well today given that she hasn’t had a lot of matches since last year.”
But the Badgers fought back, and after UW’s Nicky Stracar downed sophomore Nina Vulovich 6-4, 7-5 in the one slot and sophomore Marlen Mesgarzadeh fell to Jenny Hois 6-4, 6-2, Wisconsin had suddenly cut the deficit to just one with two matches still in progress. At that point, with the Tribe clinging to a 3-2 lead, all eyes turned on Johnson for what would be the decisive victory.
The victory gives the College a bit of momentum and confidence heading into next weekend’s trip to Gainesville, Fla, where the squad will face Winthrop Saturday and either College of Charleston or Florida Sunday.
“My team knows and understands what it means to be a team,” Geiger-Walton said. “They are very cohesive, very supportive of each other, so we have a lot of support there. We are young, and I think they are consistently going to get better as they learn what it means to compete even when you aren’t playing your best. I feel good about the next two matches … and I feel very strongly about this group.”