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Behind four freshman starters, the Radcliffe tennis team blanked a lackluster Wellesley squad, 8-0, yesterday afternoon across the river on the newly surfaced Soldiers Field courts.
Freshman Martha Roberts, replacing her sister Sally as the number one seed this year, captured her first match of the season, 6-2, 6-4. Her consistent baseline play proved too much for opponent Helen McSweetney.
Two more newcomers, Meg Meyer and Libby Pierpont, playing second and third respectively, both won in straight sets. Despite a second set lapse, Meyer handily disposed of Heidi Nickelson, 6-2, 6-3, while steady Pierpont and her two-handed backhand beat Laura Smith breadsticks and bagels.
In the number four position, junior Sally Roberts knocked off Laura Perlo 6-3, 6-2. Sophomore captain Katie Ditzler, the only other upperclassman in the starting lineup, defeated Forbes Singer at the fifth slot, 2 and 2. Finishing up like it began--with a freshman--Leslie Miller outlasted Lorri Hileman 7-5, 6-1.
Darkness and a little family tennis made the doubles matches a bit more exciting, but not much. The Roberts sisters teamed up against another sister combo--this time a set of twins, Lynda and Julie Peterson. Undaunted, the Roberts ended the match quickly, 6-2, 6-2.
In the thriller of the day, Ditzler hit a lob deep in the backhand corner for an outright winner to clinch the second doubles for her and partner Miller, 6-3, 3-5, 6-1, in almost total blackness. The other two doubles contests were suspended because of the gloom.
Last year the Crimson racketeers barely edged just-a-bus-ride-away Wellesley; this year Radcliffe only dropped one set. New faces, a new coach, and a new attitude are three good reasons why.
When tryouts for the tennis team started this fall, 40 girls showed up at Palmer-Dixon, 30 of whom were freshmen. "We weren't going to have a freshmen team this year," Coach Peter Felske said, "but I guess that's what we all are."
Returning team members admit to mixed feelings about the onslaught. "Even though I'm really enthusiastic about the team's prospects this year, it's still frustrating," Ditzler said. "It's more like semi-negative hysteria," teammate Terry Clarke, a junior, added.
"Everybody is so devoted to the team," Ditzler continued. "Coach Felske is very supportive and the freshman are all willing to put their lives on the line," she said.
"Coach Felske is always coming up with more ways to improve our practice sessions," Joan Gummowitz, another returning player said. "He gives us sheets on how to play in the wind, how to do warm-up exercises, and we have match play recording charts, on which someone keeps track of your errors in a match and what you need to work on," she explained.
Another new wrinkle in Radcliffe tennis this fall is Eleanora Mendoca, a former marathon runner for Brazil in the World Championships and currently an assistant tennis and track coach at Harvard. Mendoca is implementing a conditioning program into the practice schedule. It won'ts really get into full swing until November, but already the team is doing stadiums.
"My main goal is to hold their attention on tennis in this big, active shcool," Felske said. "If I had the women down here as much as I'd like, I'm afraid I'd scare them all away," he added. "Besides," he said grinning "I have a few more tricks up my sleeve yet."
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