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According to Harvard women's tennis Coach Ed Krass, the Crimson needs the mental edge to slay talented Wake Forest, the second-ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, today at noon at the Beren Tennis Center.
Today's opener against the well-matched Demon Deacons provides Harvard a chance for redemption after a disappointing fall campaign.
"Wake Forest is a big match that will set the tone for our spring schedule," Krass said. "We're ready to play. We're just as ready as ever."
They'll need to be ready. The Demon Deacons have been on a tear of late, and nearly upset nationally 16th-ranked Tennessee in a 5-4 squeaker.
In contrast, the Crimson's decimated fall squad hobbled to a 0-3 mark with two singles aces-Christina Dragomirescu and Jamie Henikoff--on temporary leave from the team and several other starters injured.
Fortunately for the Crimson, the two stars are back to lead the net-women into the courtside crusade for victory today and for national rankings in the not-so-distant future.
But the reunified team is taking things on a day-to-day basis. Keeping a low profile may prove useful in what may evolve into a one-set decision.
"They're not a real scary team. It's going to come down to who thinks through the best," Krass noted. "I expect it'll be a real barnburner. We need to use our heads late in the match. If we do, we can beat them."
The French Connection
France's Beatrice Guery and Celice Tournant drive the Deamon Deacon arsenal. Guery, Wake Forest's top singles player, has played on the French Federation team, and received All-ACC honors last year.
Tournant, the freshman at second singles, has wowed critics this fall with a 14-3 performance and a Mary Garber Invitational singles championship. Dragomirescu and Harvard second-seed Amy deLone must shut down the tandem in singles to set the tempo for the match.
With the Demon Deacons sporting such a strong singles lineup, the Crimson may have to fall back on its powerful doubles pairings.
"We're really looking toward doubles to set the tone," Co-Captain Nicole Rival said. And the ground-stroke firepower of Rival's freshman doubles partner, Erika Elmuts, may provide the needed spark for a Crimson win in a close match.
"I predict that Erika Elmuts will explode in doubles with Nicole," Krass said, "When it comes down to it, our doubles are rearing to go."
Goin' Back to Cali
The team will jetset to the West Coast on Friday, where they will face their toughest competition of the season. Next Saturday, the Crimson will try to defeat U.S. International University, the nation's 24th-rated team, for the first time in its history. The team remains optimistic.
"Something good is going to break on through there," Krass predicted. "This team can do some serious damage."
Does the team feel intimidated playing in the shadow of the nationally seventh-ranked men's tennis team? Rival doesn't think so.
"Since I've been here, we have been the force, and the men have been in our shadow," the co-captain said. "But I'm behind them 100 percent. It shows that an Ivy League school that gives no academic scholarships can compete in the national rankings. That motivates us."
And if Harvard's season progresses better than anticipated, Krass may schedule an extra match for his Kardiac Kids.
"We'll have to challenge the men's team," Krass declared.
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