Freshman Kristin Labeja returns a volley during one of her weekend matches. The women’s tennis team lost Friday against Xavier University, but won Saturday against Abilene Christian University . (Sonya Johnson)

By Greg Adams

Last weekend was bittersweet for Eastern’s women’s tennis squad.

Bitter, as they dropped their second straight match against a high-powered Xavier team. But the sweet came as the Lady Colonels were able to rebound the next day at home against a young Abilene Christian team.

 Friday, the Lady Colonels traveled to Cincinnati to take on Xavier University (8-3).

Eastern (6-3, 0-0 OVC) came in looking to put an end to a four-game winning streak for the Musketeers. But it was not meant to be, as Xavier was able to defend their home court and get the victory, 5-2.

Xavier’s No. 6 seed Allyson Westling, a Kentucky native, would be the first to claim a victory for her squad. She was able to defeat Eastern’s Marcela Jimenez, taking the match in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0.

Eastern’s No. 2 seed, freshman Kristina Labeja, would rebound for the Colonels. Labeja was able to defeat fellow freshman Daniella Patton, 6-3, 6-1.

With the score tied at one, Xavier’s No. 4 seed Kally Alkire would give the Musketeers the advantage.

Alkire stole the first set from Eastern’s Carmen Rodriguez. Rodriguez would do all she could but came up short in the second, losing, 6-4, 6-2.

But the Lady Colonels would bounce back to even the score.

No. 5 seed Saioa Oscoz would grind it out with Xavier’s Lizzie Oosterbaan to claim a three-set victory for Eastern. Oscoz took the first set, and after coming up short in the second, left nothing to chance in the third as she claimed it without dropping a game. The final count, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.

 Freshman No. 1 seed Lady Colonel Amandine Faouzi battled junior Katie Pleiman to try and regain the lead for Eastern. Faouzi, who entered the match with only one loss on the season, came up short in a first set tiebreaker. With a competitive showing in the second, she was unable to extend the match to a third. The final count, 7-6, 6-4.

With a 3-2 edge, Xavier needed one more victory. It would get it thanks to the play of No. 3 seed Andrea Wolf. Wolf was able to outlast Eastern’s Milena Poffo in a close three-set match.

After claiming the first set tie-break, Poffo fell in the second, and in a third set tiebreaker, she was all but able to capture the win. After a huge effort, the final score would be 6-7, 6-4, (10-8)

Afterward, head coach Rob Oertel spoke about the match.

“A very painful loss to Xavier,” Oertel said. “You always have some matches on the road that you’re never totally comfortable with. It was one of those road matches that we didn’t play our best.”

The Lady Colonels would take the court the next day and prove that they could put the past behind them; using the Xavier loss as motivation, they were able to defeat Abilene Christian.

Abilene Christian (4-2) came into town Saturday on a high, after taking down pre-season OVC favorite UT Martin. They looked to continue their winning ways against Eastern.

Eastern’s women would capture the win and end their two-game losing streak.

Fresh off of a solid performance against Xavier, Colonel No. 2 seed Kristina Labeja would pick up right where she left off. Labeja would again take her match in straight sets against her opponent Brittney Reed. The final count, 6-4, 6-3.

Coach Oertel had high remarks concerning the play of Labeja and some of the attributes that have contributed to her early success.

“Up to this point, she’s exceeded expectations,” Oertel said. “She’s clearly held her own. She has a unique style of play that’s a little bit different than other players. Opponents have a little trouble adjusting to her style of play. Also, she has a unique ability to anticipate, her anticipation is A-plus, and it allows her to get to a lot of balls and frustrate her opponents.”

No. 1 seed Amandine Faouzi would follow up, as she sought to get back to her winning ways. Faouzi capitalized on the first set and won the second over sophomore Micah Hermsdorf, 7-5, 6-2.

With Eastern taking a 2-0 lead early in singles play, Abilene Christian’s No. 4 seed, Emily Conrad stepped up to get the Wildcats on the board.

Conrad battled Eastern’s Milena Poffo in a competitive two-set contest in which she was able to come out on top over the more experienced Lady Colonel. The final score, 6-4, 6-4.

Soon after, Abilene Christian’s No. 3 seed Laura Mongin would follow with a win of her own against Eastern’s Melissa Gerritsen. Gerritsen came out firing, taking the first set away from Mongin. But, the junior from France would not back down as she would take the following two sets, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2

The play of No. 5 seed Saioa Oscoz would prove to be the deciding factor. Oscoz was able to put on a strong performance for the Lady Colonels. She took down Hannah Kelley in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.

The final singles contest featured Eastern’s No. 6 seed Carmen Rodriguez and Abilene Christian’s Felicity Delgado. Although Rodriguez was able to claim the first set, Delgado battled to win the second and outlasted the freshman from Spain to take the match, 2-6, 7-5, (10-8)

In doubles, the team of Faouzi and Oscoz were able to get a win for the Colonels, 8-6.

Also, the team of
Gerritsen and Rodriguez won, 8-4, to give the Lady Colonels a final overall match score of, 4-3.

Afterwards, coach Oertel commented on the match.

“I’m very happy how [sic] they bounced back against Abilene Christian, who was as good a team as Xavier or better,” Oertel said.

A Look Ahead:

The Lady Colonels will get some time to rest and prepare for a busy week of matches, which starts on March 6th.

They will make their way to Florida to kick off outdoor court play.

First, they will meet Embry-Riddle in Daytona.

Embry-Riddle (5-1) is a respectable squad with a host of women ranging from seniors to freshman.

Eastern will then make its way to Jacksonville to take on the Dolphins.

Jacksonville (3-3) has had an up-and-down season. A win over Eastern would help boost its momentum.

The following day, the Lady Colonels will take on North Florida University.

University of North Florida (1-2) is a team of experienced players who may give Eastern all the team can handle.