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Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - page 2

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Championship Preview
Seniors hoping to lead women’s tennis
to first CC playoff win

Caitie Druker had never picked up a racket, let alone delivered a forehand winner the last time the Muhlenberg women's tennis hosted a playoff match.

Of course that was because she was three years old at the time, and it wasn't long before she started hitting balls off of walls and honing what
Sara Sutker
Sutker is one of only four players in Muhlenberg history who have won at least 40 career singles matches during the spring season.
would become her powerful serve.

Almost two decades later, Druker will be a part of the first playoff match in Allentown since 1992 when the fourth-seeded Mules host fifth-seeded Haverford in the first round of the Centennial Conference playoffs at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Kern Field Courts.

The winner advances to face nationally ranked Johns Hopkins in the semifinals on Saturday in Baltimore. Swarthmore and Washington with face off in the other semifinal with the winners of both matches meeting in Sunday's championship.

"It's going to be great," Druker said. "We can actually have fans come out to support us and cheer us on. And it makes our lives a lot easier not having to travel. Hopefully we'll be able to come out a little stronger than we did the last time against them and be able to get a win."

Both Muhlenberg and Haverford, ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, in the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association Atlantic South Regional rankings, are no strangers to the postseason or to each other.

This will be the Mules' third trip to the postseason in the past four seasons, while the Fords will be there for the third straight year.

But neither team has won a playoff match during that time. In fact, Muhlenberg has not registered a postseason win since 1991, when it was a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference. But the CC did not have playoffs from its founding in 1994 through the 2005 season, so the Mules went 10 years without having the opportunity to go to the postseason.

And with both teams searching for their first CC playoff wins, the match should be a tight affair. Judging from their first meeting during the regular season, it could go well into the night.

Danielle  Winston
Winston ranks eighth on the school's combined wins list. She has also teamed with Schmidt to win a record 37 doubles matches.
With the April 5 match moved inside Deitrich Fieldhouse because of rain, the Fords (13-6, 6-4) claimed close victories at Nos. 1 and 2 doubles to jump out to a quick 2-1 lead.

That's when the Mules (9-5, 7-3) seized the momentum. Behind the strength of two third-set supertiebreaker wins from Druker and classmate Sara Sutker, Muhlenberg swept the singles matches to claim a 7-2 victory that took more than six hours to complete.

"Knowing that we did so well in singles the last time we played them gives us a lot of confidence," Druker said. "But we've also talked about how we need to get at least two of the three doubles matches so we can take some of the pressure off of singles play.

"We also know that they're going to come in here with some extra motivation because they want revenge from the last match."

It will also be the last time one of the most successful classes in Muhlenberg history competes on its home court.

The doubles teams of Lindsay Schmidt and Danielle Winston, and Druker and Sutker rank first and second on the Mules' all-time wins list. All four also rank in the top 20 in career singles wins and in the top 12 in combined wins.

But none of them have ever experienced postseason success. And with one last chance to end that drought, all four are determined to add a playoff victory to their resume.

"It would be great to go out with a win since this will be our last home match," Druker said of the senior class. "They're three of my best friends here, and it's been really cool to have played together for so long. I'm really going to miss all three of them and I can't believe our careers are almost over.

"We've all had a lot of success here, and to be able to win a playoff match at home would just be the icing on the cake."
Click here for the championship website.

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