Although the UMass women's varsity tennis team, undefeated in four previous matches, was better prepared for the winds that gusted across Soldiers Field yesterday than the as yet untested Harvard squad, COACH Peter Felske's charges proved that depth and talent count most under any conditions and defeated the Minutemen 7-2.
Freshmen standouts Maria Pe and Erica Schulman sparked in their debut performances. Pe, playing at the number-two position, made the most of her effective forehand, coasting to a 6-1, 6-3 triumph. Schulman patiently grooved groundstrokes to outsteady her opponent at the number three slot, 6-3, 6-2. Senior captain Martha Roberts used her powerful serve-and-volley game to mow down Chris Carson, the number four UMass player, 6-2, 7-5. And Spunky sophomore, Debbie Kalish, overcame an ankle injury that had plagued her most of last season, defeating Sue Cochiatto 6-1, 6-3 at number six.
Last year's sensation, sophomore Tiina Bougas, was not as fortunate. In the top spot again this year, Bougas came up against feisty Barbara Mills, whom she had defeated last spring at the New Englands. But this year Mills was determined to run down everything Bougas hit at her.
"Mills was a human backboard out there," Felske said after Mills had captured the match by the surprising score of 6-1, 6-3.
Bougas's usually punishing crosscourt shots were ineffective because the outdoor courts caused the balls to become fuzzy and the wind played havoc with her groundstrokes.
Senior Meg Meyer also went down 6-3, 6-4, despite a vigorous effort against UMass number five, Paula Natale. Meyer served at 4-5 to even the second set, but Natale responded to Meyer's serve-and-volley strategy with well placed passing shots.
Although the Crimson had to wait until the doubles to garner the victory, Felske broke out in smiles after the three teams won decisively.
At the number-three slot, the experienced pair of Abby Meiselman and Kristin Mertz clinched the match with a 6-2, 6-1 thrashing; and Meyer and Kalish also teamed up to mold a solid 6-1, 6-3 win.
The most promising performance, though, came from the top team of Roberts and Pe. Facing a formidable UMass team, the duo literally blew them away with aggressive overhead smashes.
"I was particularly pleased with the way Martha and Maria played together," Felske said after their 6-4, 6-1 win.