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Muhlenberg College

Thursday, April 24, 2008

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Championship Preview
Women’s tennis anxious for glory
at CC Championship

The Muhlenberg women’s tennis team returns to the big stage of the Centennial Conference playoffs following a one-season layoff.

The Mules, the No. 3 seed, will take on second-seeded Swarthmore in the first semifinal Friday on the campus of Johns Hopkins, the regular-season champion.

Muhlenberg will be looking to snap a four-match losing streak against the Garnet, which dates back to the 2004 season. The Mules almost did it when the two teams squared off on April 12, but Swarthmore snatched a close 5-4 victory.

“Now the circumstances are different,” junior Jenn Powell said. “It’s definitely a winnable match. We have a good chance, but we need to figure out a plan ahead of time.”
 Caitie Druker
Druker enters her first CC Torunament riding a seven-match winning streak.

In-form freshman Caitie Druker, who has generated a team-best 11-3 singles record in dual matches, including a 3-0 mark at No. 1, claimed a pair of victories against the Garnet. Classmate and doubles partner, Sara Sutker, also was a double winner for the Mules.

The two teams are neighbors in the Atlantic South Region rankings as Swarthmore occupies eighth place, while Muhlenberg stays in ninth.

“We need a few big matches and we can win it,” junior Carly Rotfeld said.

Swarthmore has won five CC titles, including four in the past seven years. They claimed their last trophy during the 2006 season, when they steamrolled Washington, 8-1, in the final.

Rotfeld, Powell and senior Jacquelyn Magner already have playoff experience as they played in Muhlenberg’s semifinal loss to Washington in 2006.

“Playoff matches are more stressful and you feel more pressure on the court,” Powell said. “The intensity is up because it’s one and done. It’s important that you really cheer on your teammates.”

“We’ll play this match knowing we have nothing to lose,” Rotfeld added.

Muhlenberg’s triumphant comeback to postseason play became reality after Coach Linda Andrews revitalized the squad with the inclusion of a number of talented freshmen. They paid off her trust with consistent performances and a myriad of wins, which led logically to a playoff qualification.

Under the guidance of veterans like Magner, Rotfeld and Powell, the newcomers instantaneously adapted to playing tennis at the collegiate level, exhibiting their extraordinary skills, which made up for their lack of experience.

“We’ve had a great season,” Powell said. “We have a lot of depth. The freshmen have stepped up and we’ve come together as a team and have a good momentum.”

The Mules sealed their return to the CC playoffs with a dramatic 5-4 victory against Washington in their regular season finale last Friday. Freshman Danielle Winston brought the fifth point for Muhlenberg, after overcoming nagging cramps and claiming a gutsy 7-6, 6-1 victory at No. 5 singles.

“Last match was a really good confidence-builder,” Rotfeld said.

Muhlenberg has a 1-2 season record in matches against the other three playoff teams, including a combined 13-15 mark in singles and doubles.

In the other semifinal, 21st-ranked Johns Hopkins will entertain fourth-seeded Washington.
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