GREENSBORO-Sophomore Kimberly Stalling earned a promotion on Saturday. North Carolina A&T women's tennis head coach James Dunwoody trotted out a new lineup for the team's fourth conference match of the year, and Stallings was in the No. 1 singles slot.
While the Aggies put up a fight against S.C. State (12-0, 2-0) on Saturday at the Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center, the Bulldogs remained undefeated as they swept the Aggies 7-0. The loss means the Aggies only have two more opportunities to qualify for the MEAC Tournament in April. A&T plays conference matches against Bethune-Cookman on March 31 and N.C. Central on April 9. It must win at least one of those matches to qualify.
Stalling will play a pivotal role in those two contests. Her work ethic and top performance moved Stalling from A&T's No. 4 singles player earlier in the season to its new No. 1
"I look at this like a business. If you're doing a good job and there's a promotion. It should be a special perk, a special promotion for someone to go from No. 4 to No. 1. I did that based on performance against Florida A&M and in practice, and her practice mentality."
Dunwoody had Stalling play teammate Cayla Cross in practice. Stalling beat Cross to solidify the promotion. Stalling's play in the conference hasn't hurt her advancement. Looking to extend her undefeated streak in conference play this season, she lost to Suhaila Jad of Spain by 6-0, 6-0 on Saturday. She's now 4-8 overall and 3-11 in the MEAC.
"I thought I played pretty well, but I was definitely disappointed a little bit because I really wanted that match, and I was undefeated in our conference," said Stalling. "It's a minor setback, but I'm definitely ready for our next conference match."
Stalling learned of the promotion just when the lineups were being announced on the court prior to the match.
"I just thought, 'Ok, let's go,'" she said, adding that her goal was to fight hard in a match against the reigning MEAC champions. "I was just trying to go in with a positive attitude and keep my head up throughout the match. I knew it was going to be a challenge. There's definitely a difference from No. 4."
Freshman Kenya Colbert also earned a promotion, playing at No. 2 in singles on Saturday.
"Colbert's going to be a good tennis player when she gets more experience. She's going to be all right next year," Dunwoody added.
The Aggies were swept 6-0, 6-0, in the first four singles matches. Junior April Burrage and sophomore Victorea Austin were the only A&T players to win points against the Bulldogs in singles play, they each lost 6-2, 6-1.
The Aggies lost all three doubles matches as Dunwoody mixed his lineup in that area as well. Colbert and Burrage, who have won six games this season, were split up and mixed up with the previous paring of Nianna Henry and Stalling. On Saturday, Henry and Burrage played at No. 2 doubles, and Colbert competed with Stalling at No. 3 doubles. Dunwoody was pleased with the performance.
"The Stalling and Colbert match-up and doubles was a fair decision on my part, it looks like they won one more than these two at No. 2 did," he said. "I'll probably use Colbert and Stalling moving forward. Nianna played well today. It was probably one of her better doubles matches. They'll probably be a little more solid if they play together a little bit more."
"This might be the lineup pretty much going forward. I was happy with this lineup." Dunwoody said.
The Aggies will compete on Monday, heading to Gardner-Webb for a 2 p.m., match in Boiling Springs, N.C.
S.C. State University Women's 7, North Carolina A&T 0
1. JAD,Suhaila (SCSUW) def. STALLING,Kimberly (NCATW) 6-0, 6-0
2. JAMES,AKilah (SCSUW) def. COLBERT,Kenya (NCATW) 6-0, 6-0
3. CRACIUN,Maria (SCSUW) def. CROSS,Cayla (NCATW) 6-0, 6-0
4. MENDEZ,Sabrina (SCSUW) def. NIGATU,Azeib (NCATW) 6-0, 6-0
5. KHATCEI,Victoriia (SCSUW) def. BURRAGE,April (NCATW) 6-2, 6-1
6. BOSNEAG,Laura (SCSUW) def. AUSTIN,Victorea (NCATW) 6-2, 6-1
1. CRACIUN,Maria/JAMES,AKilah (SCSUW) def. NIGATU,Azeib/CROSS,Cayla (NCATW) 8-0
2. JAD,Suhaila/MENDEZ,Sabrina (SCSUW) def. HENRY,Nianna/BURRAGE,April (NCATW) 8-1
3. BARBORIKOVA,Kat/BOSNEAG,Laura (SCSUW) def. COLBERT,Kenya/STALLING,Kimberly (NCATW) 8-2