It’s no surprise to anyone that the Cornell College women’s tennis team is strong. After all, last year then-freshman Gabriella Ferro (18) set Ram records for most singles wins and total wins (50-13), Julia Thome (18.) became the reigning Midwest Conference champion at No. 3 singles, and Shashanna Moll (17) posted a more than respectable 20-4 singles record and 21-8 in doubles play despite battling illness for much of the fall.
However, some may have been slightly concerned for the team this year. Half of the team is composed of freshmen who, however talented they may be, are in fact new to college level tennis and new to one another as teammates. Yet, that wasn’t at all the impression Illinois College left with Saturday morning when they lost 8-1.
Cornell team captain Shashanna Moll gave her thoughts on the morning’s matches, “I think we played well…I am also looking forward to this evening, which should be more challenging.”
More challenging? Maybe. The quality of play certainly continued to increase. The matches against Illinois showed the Rams winning over the Illinois Lady Blues’ power with careful precision; Knox came out in the afternoon looking sharper all around.
In those afternoon matches, however, the Rams were using their own power to full advantage without dropping an ounce of form. No matter the increase of talent from Knox, the Cornell women were simply too much for them. The Rams swept the Prairie Fire 9-0.
Perhaps more important, though, was the overall support the team showed one another. Moll mentioned after the Illinois game, “We’re looking for strong doubles [this evening]…We have a really great group of girls. Everyone here is ready to come all out.”
If that’s what they were looking for, that’s certainly what they got. Teammates in doubles were constantly seen high-fiving one another, and all five doubles matches Saturday were wins for Cornell. During one of the most contested matches of the day between Cornell’s Sophie Robertson (19) and Illinois’s Tamar Norville (16), the entire team waiting in the stands moved to the hill directly behind her court so as to cheer her on.
The spirit of the day seemed pervasive, even for the opposition; at one point, Illinois College Coach Andrew Bartelmo actually informed his player of a miscall on her behalf, leading to the point being granted to Cornell in a true show of fair play and sportsmanship.
Sunday proved a slightly more difficult fight for Cornell, but the day still ended very well, with the third Midwest Conference matchup ending 7-2 over Monmouth. Thome, Robertson, Ferro, Gracie Benton (19) and Janice Elkerton (19) all finished their matches in two wins. The doubles teams of Moll/Robertson and Thome/Ferro also proved fortuitous for the Cornell Rams.
By the end of the weekend, Cornell’s Women’s Tennis could proudly claim to have taken an early lead in the Midwestern Conference at 3-0; in the words of team captain Shashanna Moll, “We have quite a few freshmen, but they’ve all adapted really well and found their place on the team.” Any worries over this year’s team can clearly be safely put to rest after this weekend.
Elizabeth Flick, Staff Writer
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Flick