William and Mary fell just short of a victory over reigning Big South Champion Winthrop University in Charlotte Jan. 20. The Tribe fell 4-3 to the Eagles despite a late rally led by senior Lauren Goodman and junior Charlotte Madson.
It was doubles play that gave the Eagles their initial lead, as the College dropped two of the three doubles matches to lose the first point of the day. Though the duos looked sharp in the season opener against Richmond, their lack of experience playing together showed in their second collegiate appearance as partners.
Junior Natalia Perry and freshman Mila Saric started off with a 6-3 victory. Junior Rosie Cheng and sophomore Vitoria Okuyama lost their match 6-3, and Goodman and Madson dropped theirs by the same margin.
The Eagles piled on with a victory in the No. 2 spot over junior Natalia Perry, but just when it looked like the Tribe was down and out, Goodman defeated Winthrop’s Alisa Soloveva 6-4, 6-2 at the No. ? spot, lighting a fire under the Tribe.
Madson and Saric, playing at the No. 5 and No. 6 spots respectively, eked out identical 7-5, 6-4 victories, giving the Tribe two-straight points.
The College’s rally was short-lived. Cheng and Okuyama each took a set off their singles opponents but were ultimately bested in three games. Cheng’s matchup at the No. ? spot had the look of a nail-biter from the start as her opponent, Lauren Proctor, was the 2017 Big South Player of the Year. Cheng took the first set off Proctor through a tie-breaker, but lost the next two, 6-3, 6-2.
Cheng’s tough matchup was only one of multiple factors conspired against the Tribe in their close loss to the Eagles. The Tribe’s doubles teams lack the necessary experience on the court together, and it showed. Additionally, Okuyama, who earned Colonial Athletic Association Doubles Team of the Week twice in her first year with the Tribe, has started her sophomore season slowly. She was the only singles loss in the season opener against Richmond and didn’t fare much better against the Eagles.
Notably absent from the roster was senior Clara Tanielian, Okuyama’s former doubles partner. Tanielian’s No. 3 singles spot was occupied by Goodman, who rallied the Tribe with a win against Soloveva.
Looking ahead, the College will be attending the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Athens Georgia Jan. 25-26. To redeem itself from such a dispiriting outing, it will need to strengthen it doubles teams and get Cheng and Okuyama back to playing at the top of their games. Other key components to look for are Saric’s continued improvements and Goodman remaining strong in her final season. All eyes will be on those four key players this weekend.