October 12, 2012

Game of The Week: Women's Tennis Vs. Plymouth State

UMass Boston women's tennis (3-8, 1-5 Little East Conference) will host Plymouth State University (6-6-, 4-3) Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. in a must-win contest for the Beacons. The Beacons will not only host their Senior Day honoring Hieu Nguyen (Dorchester, Mass.) and Wendy Steinman (Dudley, Mass.), but will also hold their annual "Hit It To Win It." 

With two LEC conference games left, the Beacons need wins in each (Worcester State Sunday) of their remaining matches and the loser of Friday's contest between the University of Southern Maine and Rhode Island College to lose their match on Saturday as well. On the flip side, the Panthers have already clinched the fourth seed in the six-team Little East Conference Tournament that begins Tuesday.

Despite their recent struggles in the wins column, Nguyen thinks the Beacons are capable of beating a Panthers squad that has beaten them in each of the past three seasons.

"Last night we played Suffolk and that was definitely a boost; the score didn't say much, but as a team that was definitely a practice round because they are similar to Plymouth," Nguyen said. "We know Plymouth is a tough team but it's a new year, they have new players just like we do and it's our home courts now." 

A year ago the Panthers defeated the Beacons in the Little East Conference Quarterfinals by a 5-1 score, but the team thinks their biggest focus Saturday should be on themselves, rather than their opponents. 

"Overall even though the scores don't show it, we've had a really good season point wise and with the mental and skills aspects of the game," said Steinman.

"Our only problem is we just need to know how to finish the points and finish the game in general. We have the skills to be successful and we have that motivation-that this is what we have to do [to make the postseason] and that we're going to push ourselves just a bit further." 

If UMass Boston is going to come away with a victory, the Beacons will have to do something they've worked on all season long: playing to finish points, rather than just keep them alive.

"Since we know that it's a must win we'll definitely take more risks during our games," Nguyen said. "It's going to be tough but our mental game for all of us has grown tremendously and if we can stay focused, there's no reason why we can't beat them."

With Steinman out with an injury for the past few weeks, the Beacons have relied on some of the younger members on the roster to step up.

Junior Samantha Counts (Bridgewater, Mass.) has been strong at number two singles all season long, while Imani Williams (Roxbury, Mass.) has stabilized the Beacons with her presence at number three singles. Freshman Stephony Reeves (Dorchester, Mass.), Solveig Castelli (Precojo, France) and Shihyu Yang (Taipei, Taiwan) have all stepped up and made big impacts in their first year.

For the Beacons two seniors, the growth of their teammates is something they've come to expect after spending four years with the program. 

"For me personally [UMass Boston women's tennis] has been a great thing," Steinman said. "This is a commuter school and Hieu and I have a friendship that's one of a kind and we met because of this program. You meet so many people through this team and you just learn how to work as a team. We've carried on what others have taught us and each year we've become stronger people and seen our teammates grow as well."

Even with a win Saturday, the Beacons will need to defeat Worcester State on Sunday at Noon, in order to capture their second straight trip to the LEC Tournament.