In their last matches of the regular season, the Georgetown women’s and men’s tennis teams captured victories against Big East foe Villanova this past Friday. The women’s team (12-4, 2-3 Big East) swept Villanova (11-8, 0-2 Big East) 6-0, while the men’s team (8-8, 2-1 Big East) defeated Villanova (8-11, 3-2 Big East) 5-2.
Coming off those wins, the teams will now begin preparation for the Big East tournament this weekend in Cayce, S.C. The first round of play will begin on Friday, with the No. 4-seeded women’s team taking on No. 5 Marquette (11-8, 1-2 Big East) at 12:30 p.m. The men — also seeded fourth — will begin play at 4 p.m. against No. 5 Xavier (11-8, 3-3 Big East).
According to junior Jordan Portner, the wins over Villanova have given the Georgetown teams momentum heading into the tournament.
“We feel confident going in; we have a good week of practice,” Portner said. “Everyone feels ready, everyone feels fresh, we’re not worn down or anything. We’re hitting our primes right now, so this is good for us.”
On the women’s side against Villanova, Georgetown’s doubles wins in the first and second slots put the Hoyas on the scoreboard first. The Blue and Gray then went on to capture all five singles victories in straight sets. Junior Victoire Saperstein won her first singles match 7-6(1), 6-2. Freshman Risa Nakagawa and sophomore Sara Swift defeated their opponents in the second and third singles slots, respectively. Freshman Cecilia Lynham and junior Sophie Barnard notched victories in their fifth and sixth singles matches, respectively.
The men’s team started slowly in its contest against Villanova, failing to notch the doubles point early on. Portner and freshman Michael Chen won their first doubles match 6-2, but sophomore Peter Beatty and junior Yannik Mahlangu at second doubles and freshman Bart Panarese and junior Jack Murphy at third doubles fell in identical 7-6 decisions.
“They have good chemistry; they feed off each other,” Head Coach Gordie Ernst said of Chen and Portner’s doubles play. “[Chen]’s just been amazing, [he’s] had an amazing year.”
“What’s really gotten better between us, we understand the movement of each other before,” Portner said. “We know where the other guy’s going to go, where he wants to serve, where the person in net should be.”
Even though the Hoyas lost the doubles point, they went on to win five singles matches. Beatty, sophomore Mac Rechnan and Sharton all won their matches in straight sets at the second, fifth and sixth singles positions, respectively. Chen and Mahlangu both won their matches in three-set battles to lift the Hoyas to a 5-2 win over the Wildcats.
Georgetown did win its match over Villanova without winning the majority of the doubles matches, but the doubles point determined the outcome of the team’s previous two Big East contests.
“If you look at Big East matches in the past, they’re most of the time coming to 4-3 decisions. Getting that 1-0 lead right off the bat is huge,” Portner said. “Getting the point as soon as we get down there as the first thing that we do is going to be a huge momentum swing for us against Xavier.”
According to Ernst, the team’s competitive spirit this season has been one of the program’s main strengths. Ernst explained that if the Hoyas apply this to postseason play, they have the potential to win a title — a feat the program has not accomplished since the 1980s.
“With this particular group … their work ethic is unbelievable,” Ernst said. “The women have never won Big East. The men won it in 1989. … We’re looking to make some history this year.”
Portner explained that the team’s emotional investment in competitive play sets it apart this season. With a set of young players ready to partake in their first tournament, the team as a whole is eager to start postseason play.
“We’ve got guys getting pumped up and letting each other know that they’re winning, which really helps out the other courts hearing that someone won a first set or got a break on serve, so I think that’s the biggest difference on this team,” Portner said. “We’re younger. We have some young guys on this team who are really fired and excited to get to Big East for the first time, so I think they’re going to be extra loud down there.”
Besides the conference competition, one of the biggest challenges for Georgetown will be the weather during the tournament. Temperatures will reach up to the 90s in South Carolina, conditions in which the Hoyas have not yet played.
“We get into third sets, playing in the heat in South Carolina, that changes outcomes of matches,” Ernst said.
If the Georgetown teams advance past the first round, both may see the number one seeds in the semifinals. The number one seed on the women’s side is No. 63 DePaul (12-7, Big East 6-0), while the number one seed on the men’s side is St. John’s (18-5). These matches would take place at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Most recently, the women’s team fell to DePaul on February 20 in a 6-1 decision. The men’s team did not match up against St. Johns this year in the regular season.
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