GREENSBORO-There's quite a bit riding on Friday's tennis matches. The North Carolina A&T women's tennis team (1-6, 1-0) needs to win just one more conference match to secure a spot in the MEAC Championship Tournament, April 11 in Raleigh, N.C.
The Aggies could pick up that win in their 6 p.m., match against Norfolk State (0-3) at the Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center, following their 1 p.m., match against Division II Fayetteville State (0-2) on the same day.
"These are two big matches. It'd be nice to get two big wins," said head coach James Dunwoody.
The Norfolk State match is especially important to the team because they want to make sure they get a spot in the tournament early this season.
"That one's really important to us, so I think that everyone will come in with a good attitude and be willing to work hard," said junior Cayla Cross about the Aggies match against Norfolk State.
But before getting to the Spartans, the Aggies must first handle the Broncos. The Broncos return sophomore All-CIAA tennis standout Varice Love. Love helped lead FSU to the CIAA Tennis Tournament last season. She picked up her first singles win on Feb. 12 against Methodist and accounted for one of the two FSU points in the Broncos' loss in that match.
"I feel that the first match will be a great warm-up for the second," Cross said.
The Aggies have been spending the week in practice working to fine tune their line-up in order to find the right mix to collect the necessary four points to win a match.
Dunwoody has decided to break up his No. 1 doubles pairing of senior Azeib Nigatu and Cross and No. 2 doubles pairing of junior Nianna Henry and sophomore Kimberly Stalling, who have gone 1-6 and 0-7 respectively to start the season. He will be reworking his No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams for Friday.
"I haven't made a decision," said Dunwoody about finalizing his newest pairings. "I tried one last night, and I'll try another tonight."
On Tuesday, Nigatu and Henry were teamed together against Stalling and Cross. On Wednesday, Dunwoody saw how freshman Kenya Colbert and Cross worked together against Nigatu and Henry.
The Aggies will only have to field two doubles teams against Norfolk State, because the Spartans only have five players on the team-one shy of being able to field a full lineup of singles and doubles matches. The Spartans' lack of depth means that the Aggies will win a singles match and a doubles match by default.
"If I win one of the doubles matches, I'll get one point, and then because they don't play a sixth singles match, I'll have two," Dunwoody said. "But what you anticipate in this business it seldom occurs. We are cautiously optimistic that we can win one doubles point."
However, the Aggies will have to play a normal slate of three doubles matches against FSU.
"I'm going to keep April [Burrage] and Kenya together because they've been winning," Dunwoody said about his planned lineup for the FSU match. "I don't want to break them up."
Junior Burrage and Colbert are 3-4 on the year and have won their last two doubles matches.
Dunwoody said he is also considering dramatic changes his singles lineup for Friday's doubleheader, but that has also yet to be finalized. Right now, the Aggies have seen the most production from their No. 5 and No. 6 singles players in Burrage and sophomore Victorea Austin. Burrage has a pair of singles wins to her credit, while Austin leads the team with three singles wins.
The Aggies will follow Friday's doubleheader by playing Presbyterian at Clinton, S.C., on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 1 p.m.