The Collegian
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Women's tennis vying for A-10 title, NCAA bid this weekend

The University of Richmond women's tennis team has enjoyed success throughout most of its spring season, but the team will need one more winning weekend to reach its goal of an Atlantic 10 championship.

The Spiders were 14-5 during the regular season, with all of their losses coming against ranked opponents. The team also won five of its matches 7-0.

Senior Pamela Duran, one of the team captains and a three-time first team A-10 conference performer, attributed the success to the team's depth and balance from top to bottom.

"We have a strong team," Duran said. "Our top players are good and from four to six we're really strong."

Duran normally plays No. 1 singles, often followed by junior Erin Clark at No. 2 and sophomore Kelly Tidwell at No. 3.

Though the exact line up changes from match to match, Duran is the team leader both during matches and away from the court, Tidwell said.

"She's like the definition of a captain," Tidwell said.

Duran not only pushes her teammates to perform well during matches, she also hosts team events at her apartment and encourages the players to bond, Tidwell said.

During competition, Tidwell said that the team could always count on Duran to compete hard.

"When it's time for a match, you know Pammy will be ready," Tidwell said.

Both Tidwell and Duran agreed that another big part of the team's recent success resulted from more intense off-season training.

"We trained a lot harder [than last year] this past fall," Tidwell said. "It's definitely a key to our success. It's made us more match ready."

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The increased intensity of the workouts also helped the Spider freshmen succeed during their first collegiate year.

Freshmen Helen Cunningham, Joanna Matuszczyk and Catherine Crystal have all had important impacts on this year's team, Duran said.

Cunningham has played No. 4 singles for much of the season and has fostered a healthy competition on the team because of her strong play, Tidwell said.

Matuszczyk primarily pays No. 5 singles and has only lost two singles matches all year, both in three sets. She was named A-10 Rookie of the Week on March 30 after going 3-0 during the preceding week.

"She wins all the time," Tidwell said of her teammate.

During matches against ranked opponents, the Spiders went 1-5, but Duran said the difficult matches were beneficial, especially heading into the conference tournament.

"[Playing against] tough competition helps a lot," Duran said. "It brings confidence because you lose some [matches], but you also win some."

The Spiders are hoping that their successful regular season and experience against tough opponents will help them

during the A-10 championship this weekend in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Last spring, the team finished third during the championships after losing to Temple University during the semifinal round. This year, Duran said that Temple would be the team's hardest competition during the championships.

"We can match them," Duran said. "They beat us last year, but this year it won't happen again."

If the Spiders were to win the A-10 title, they would earn an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. Duran could also qualify for the NCAAs individually.

Reaching the tournament has been one of the team's main goals since the fall, Tidwell said.

"Making the [NCAAs] has been a driving force," Tidwell said. "Based on the fall season, we knew we were going to be a strong team...but an NCAA appearance would take it to a whole new level."

Though the Spiders would probably face a team ranked in the top-16 nationally during the first round of the NCAA tournament, Tidwell was not discouraged.

"Based on the matches we've already won this season, who knows," she said. "We could have a really good day."

Contact staff writer Reilly Moore at reilly.moore@richmond.edu

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