Saints making strides at higher level

By Laura Smith

With a record even at 3-3, the Flagler women’s tennis team is searching for the right combination of elements to get on a strong run.

In wins against Eckerd (7-2), St. Thomas (8-1) and Southern Indiana (7-2), the team has handled opponents with relative ease. However, lopsided losses to Valdosta State and Xavier, as well as a tough loss to Tampa have left the Saints at .500 for the season.

“We are losing to really good teams and beating the teams that we should be beating,” Coach Walter Shinn said. “Technically [the women] are very solid and consistent. They are playing hard. I am pleased with the effort that they are giving.”

While early injuries have affected the team, the players believe they have the ability to continue competing strongly.

“I think it has been a pretty good season,” junior Monica Burbelo said. “It is our first time playing Div. II, so it is a big deal. But I think the girls have reacted well.”

Burbelo suffered her first singles loss of the season in the team’s 9-0 loss to Xavier. She is now 5-1 while playing at No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6 singles, depending on the match up. Burbelo and doubles teammate Allison Hess are 3-2 in doubles competition.

“I think we are a strong team depth-wise right down to the sixth player,” she said. “When we are playing against big schools, everyone is playing awesome. We are working together as a team and I think that things can only get better from here on out.”

Playing at No. 1 singles, freshman Chelsi de Cuba is currently 2-4 in singles play. Her usual doubles partner, Maria Ospina, is 4-2 in singles competition and the duo is 2-2 in doubles matches. Leigh Ann Moss and Chelsea Maratta are also 2-2 as a team.

The Saints will get a chance to keep their season on an upswing at home in the coming weeks, although the competition will not be easy. The Saints will welcome NCAA Div. I Eastern Kentucky and Appalachian State as well as Div. III Johns Hopkins. They will also play an exhibition match in Melbourne, Fla., against Oxford University of England on March 17.

“We just need to bridge that final gap and really get to that next level,” Shinn said. “We just need to improve in a few areas and next year we are going to be winning a lot more matches.”

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