PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth women's tennis team dropped a razor-thin 5-4 decision to Rhode Island College in a Little East Conference Tournament semifinal match played Thursday at the RIC Athletic Complex Tennis Courts.
The loss eliminated the #3 seeded Corsairs (10-4) from the post-season. The #2 seeded Anchorwomen (14-2) set a new program record for team victories in a season and set up a match against #1 seed and defending champion Bridgewater State University (13-0) in the LEC championship match. The Bears, who will host the final Saturday at noon, eliminated #4 seed Worcester State (8-8) by a 5-0 margin on Thursday.
The match between the Corsairs and Anchorwomen could not have been much closer. The match score was tied at 4-4 and came down to a No. 2 singles match between a pair of junior captains - RIC's Chelsea Brown (Wallingford, Conn.) and UMass Dartmouth's Hannah Schulze (Chelmsford, Mass.). Schulze won the opening set, 6-1. Brown responded with a 6-1 victory in the second set and built a 5-2 lead in the third and deciding set before Schulze gamely battled back. Schulze saved six match points and had five break points to the level the final set at 5-5 before Brown finally closed out the win, 6-4.
"Hannah battled right until the very end, and came oh so close to tying it up," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach Doug Chapman. "Both players were playing extremely well and the marathon points at the end were excruciating to watch, but didn't bother either player. Our only disappointment is in the final result, because it was a fantastic match."
The Anchorwomen had won the first meeting of the two teams 8-1 on Sept. 24. UMass Dartmouth was 8-1 since then heading into this match.
"We approached this match with a lot of confidence and a real belief that we could reverse the result," said Coach Chapman. "I was very pleased with the way that we competed, the attitude and composure that we maintained from start to finish and the quality of play from both teams. It was a terrific women's college tennis match."
The Anchorwomen won two of the three doubles matches to take a 2-1 lead into the singles.
The Corsairs got the scoreboard first with an eighth straight victory at No. 1 doubles. Schulze and senior co-captain Nicole Pelletier (Swansea, Mass.) were 8-2 winners over sophomore Sadie Campanella (Chepachet, R.I.) and freshman Jorgie Martin (Smithfield, R.I.) in the first flight.
RIC rallied two win the next two doubles points. Anchorwomen freshmen Julie Reddy (Greenville, R.I.) and Noelle Tiberi (Smithfield, R.I.) topped senior co-captain Angela Pollard (Portsmouth, R.I.) and Allison Furtado (Fairhaven, Mass.) 8-4 at second doubles. Brown and sophomore Tressa Cannata (Cranston, R.I.) improved to 13-0 at third doubles with an 8-3 win over senior Liz Cignoli (Springfield, Mass.) and freshman Rosalie Kimba (Milford, Mass.).
UMass Dartmouth briefly put themselves in the driver's seat by winning the opening sets in four of the six singles matches. If the Corsairs had been able to hold on to those four points, they would have won the match.
Pollard knotted the match at 2-2 with a quick 6-1, 6-0 victory over Cannata at No. 3 singles. The Anchorwomen momentarily regained the lead when Campanella defeated Pelletier 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1 singles.
It was the Corsairs turn to go back ahead, and they took a 4-3 lead following victories by Cignoli (6-2, 6-0 over Tiberi at No. 5) and freshman Katelyn Capone (Abington, Mass.), who defeated Martin 6-3, 6-4 at No. 6 singles.
RIC needed victories in both of the final two singles matches to win the team match, and that is just what they accomplished. Reddy topped Furtado 6-3, 6-3 at No. 4 singles in a match that took considerably longer than the scored might indicate, deadlocking the overall match score at 4-4. It all came down to Brown and Schulze, who put on a pulsating display of solid tennis in the pressurized situation.