GREENSBORO- The North Carolina A&T women's tennis team turned in a stronger and more focused performance on Saturday against East Carolina University, but despite their improvement from Friday's match against Shaw, the Aggies fell to the Pirates at Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center 7-0.
Junior April Burrage and freshman Kenya Colbert continued to succeed in the No. 3 doubles spot, defeating Vanessa Fuleihan and Karling Watson 8-5. Burrage and Colbert have now won 3 doubles matches-the most doubles victories on the team.
"We did better than yesterday," said head coach James Dunwoody. "The effort's been good every day."
The Aggies (1-6, 1-0) were the third team the Pirates (2-4) had faced in two days. The Pirates won every singles match, and two doubles matches to secure seven points-but those points came after a fight from the Aggies.
"I feel like we played really well, especially in doubles. Everybody improved from yesterday," said junior Cayla Cross, the No. 1 singles player for A&T. "Everybody looked really good and gave it their all."
In other doubles action, Cross and Nigatu lost to Zhang and Terpko by an 8-0 final in the No. 1 match. Stalling and junior Nianna Henry performed markedly better in comparison to Friday's match, but fell 4-8 to Collins and Gray.
"We changed the doubles, not the format of the lineup, but we changed the aggressiveness," Dunwoody said. "We pushed the girls up and made them go forward. We told them not to hit more than two groundstrokes. After two, they had to go up to volley. I think it helped the doubles teams."
"No. 3 [Burrage and Colbert] plays the style I want to play, with more volleys than groundstrokes," Dunwoody added.
The singles match that Cross fought perhaps best represented the overall performance of the North Carolina A&T women's tennis team on Saturday. She fought hard to the end, working each ball to get a point. She showed discipline and focus, but just was not able to overcome her opponent.
"The first set I was really frustrated with myself because I just felt like I was doing everything I could, but I still wasn't getting any games. They would be getting to deuce but I wasn't able to close, so that's why the first set was 6-1," she said. "The second set, I was down, 40-love and was still frustrated. Something told me to just not give up. I got one, then I got two, then I got three, then I got four, and then I got down 5-4 and I thought 'Oh god, all of that just to get right back down,' then I got five. Then she won the next two...there was a lot of tension, you could tell."
Dunwoody said that he will be working with his team to improve their risk-taking to help them make the big point, as well as practicing game and match scenarios in practice. He said he is thinking about tinkering the doubles lineup to find the best pairing that will get the Aggies the doubles point.
The next game day for the Aggies will be Friday, Feb. 17 in which they play their first doubleheader of the season. The Aggies will host Fayetteville State at 1 p.m., and then will take on MEAC opponent Norfolk State at 6 p.m.
"I think we're playing Norfolk second, and that's the game that really matters," Cross said. "I feel that the first game will be a great warm-up for the second. And that win's really important to us."
Dunwoody added, "If we beat Norfolk State, we're in the tournament. That should take a lot of pressure off us."
Tennis Match Results
East Carolina 7, North Carolina A&T 0
1. Yilian Zhang (ECU) def. CROSS,Cayla (NCATW) 6-1, 7-5
2. Natalie Collins (ECU) def. NIGATU,Azeib (NCATW) 6-0, 6-1
3. Renata Bakieva (ECU) def. COLBERT,Kenya (NCATW) 6-2, 6-0
4. Danielle Terpko (ECU) def. STALLING,Kimberly (NCATW) 6-1, 6-1
5. Dana Gray (ECU) def. BURRAGE,April (NCATW) 6-1, 6-0
6. Abby Richmond (ECU) def. AUSTIN,Victorea (NCATW) 6-3, 6-1
1. Yilian Zhang/Danielle Terpko (ECU) def. CROSS,Cayla/NIGATU,Azeib (NCATW) 8-0
2. Natalie Collins/Dana Gray (ECU) def. HENRY,Nianna/STALLING,Kimberly (NCATW) 8-4
3. COLBERT,Kenya/BURRAGE,April (NCATW) def. Vanessa Fuleihan/Karling Watson (ECU) 8-5