Women’s tennis battles harsh weather conditions in CAA play

Assistant Sports Editor: Noah Thomas

Gusty winds and cold temperatures were what set the tone for Saturday, as nearly two dozen former players gathered for Alumni Day to watch UNC Wilmington’s women’s tennis team host the College of Charleston in CAA play.

It felt like a day in late winter as opposed to one in April. Mother Nature showed no bias, throwing heavy winds at both teams throughout the afternoon, including gusts that peaked at nearly 30 mph.

The Seahawks fell 4-3 to the Cougars after gaining an early advantage in doubles play. Duos made up of Christine Kharkevitch/Laura Gomez and Alix Theodossiou/Annika Sillanpaa claimed 6-3 and 6-1 victories, respectively, to help UNCW gain a 1-0 lead on the day.

In the third doubles game, Sabrina Barisano and Madara Straume fell short in a 6-4 loss. Ironically enough, they would be the two to lead the Seahawks in singles play.

Straume, a transfer student from LSU, took the fight to Charleston’s Liza Fieldsend in a hard-fought No. 1 match that went back and forth for most of the afternoon.

After dropping the first set 3-6, Straume went on the offensive and claimed the final two sets, 6-2 and 7-6 (5).

“The most important thing is that I always try to keep in mind what my game plan is,” said Straume. “With less doubt and just reminding myself that this is just a game at the end of the day and that it’s okay to smile before an important serve. I try and do the best I can, which is all I can do at the end of the day.”

The breezy conditions caused more and more trouble as the day played out. In addition to making a difference in where balls landed on the court’s in and out markers, some swings of the racquet, regardless of speed and power, seemed destined to die in midair.

“I felt it the most with my serve, especially there at the beginning” said Straume. “Just as the winds began to pick up even more after the match, I tried to not put my mind on those conditions, you know, and make the adjustments.”

Barisano and opponent Helena Nyikos, though not those that decided Saturday’s match, were the last two players to leave the court. They split the first two sets 7-6 (4) and 2-6 before Barisano was able to clinch with a 6-4 victory in the final set.

“Just the support from my teammates [allowed me to pull it out],” said Barisano. “We actually just got these new towels from our coach [Hans Olsen] that say ‘fight’ on them, and every time I looked at mine it kept reminding me to keep pushing and pushing the whole way through.”

The rest of the Seahawks were not as lucky in singles play. A 4-2 advantage in the category gave Charleston its final 4-3 decision. UNCW is now 8-8 on the season and 3-3 in the CAA.

UNCW’s Senior Day celebration will take place on Thursday, April 16 when Mount Olive College comes to town for 2016’s final regular season match.