After tough first set of matches, both teams able to ace Eckerd squads
By Brian Vigna
With a poor showing in their previous match, both Flagler College tennis teams were ready to come out strong against their next opponent, Eckerd College.
The women’s team lost in the season opener to Valdosta State University, 8-1. After that loss, the team was struggling to stay focused on the coming match against Eckerd, but a lot of practice proved to be the key to success.
“[Valdosta] was a very tough match,” freshman Maria Ospina said. “They were an awesome team. But we learned a lot from the loss.”
The women’s team had a much better showing against Eckerd securing two of the three doubles matches, and five of the six singles matches to cruise to a 7-2 win. Ospina said that a change in atmosphere played a role against Eckerd.
“This weekend was a little easier, and our practice is really beginning to show on the court,” she said.
Ospina defeated Eckerd’s Stephanie Bowen in straight sets 6-1, 6-0. The series may have been even more lopsided had Flagler’s Chelsi de Cuba not retired with a 5-0 lead after the match had been decided.
Success has brought the team even closer, and they are enthusiastic about the rest of the season ahead of them.
“Our team is united,” Ospina said after the match vs. Eckerd. “We are a unit that supports each other 100 percent.”
The women will have their hands full at the beginning of March when they play back-to-back matches on the road against NCAA Div. II Tampa and Saint Leo, March 2 and 3.
The men’s team also suffered a defeat at the hands of Valdosta State in their first match, which helped to prepare them for the challenging season in front of them.
“The good competition of the Valdosta State team, with the large student section, made for an intense playing environment,” senior Antonio Puente said.
According to Coach Walter Shinn, the strong competition can only strengthen the team.
“It gave them all some perspective on what it’s like to be in the top 10,” he said.
With a sweep in all three doubles matches and taking five of six in singles in the match against Eckerd, the men’s team showed a strong improvement from their last outing.
“We played well,” Shinn said. “This was a great confidence boost.”
Shinn’s top two men, senior Mario Jutronic and sophomore Jeremy Lamande won their doubles match 8-4. In singles competition, Lamande won his match in straight sets while Jutronic fell in a close match to Eckerd’s No. 1 Elmar Koenig.
A strong showing was crucial for the Saints men after losing 9-0 against Valdosta State.
After the victory over Eckerd, Shinn is eager to see his young team develop into a force this season.
“Because both teams are so young, we’re going to take our licks, but by the middle of March opponents are going to have to be pretty good to beat us,” he said.
The schedule does not get any easier for the men as they host Rollins on Feb. 20, and travel to Saint Leo on March 3.