By Jeffrey Batt and Wesley Wilcox| firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, February 27th something special happened in the Nation’s Oldest City. An NCAA school record was set and a loud triumphant upset occurred at the Flagler College Tennis Center. The Flagler College Women’s Tennis program knocked off No. 3 Saint Leo, and shocked the Southeast Region.
In collegiate athletics upsets are prone to happen, but more often than not so do let down matches following such a monumental victory, “I believe all of these wins are giving us confidence and trust in ourselves,” said sophomore Mary Jo Nanti, “but at the same time we know that we have to work even harder.”
The Saints were tasked with welcoming conference foe USC Aiken just days later, and Flagler took the meet 8-1 over Aiken only allowing one line to be won, and this happened again days later as the Saints dismantled in-state rival Lander 8-1. “We are staying focused and wanting to continue what we are doing,” said junior Kelly Burge.
With the Saints on a red-hot win streak, they were again asked to do the unthinkable when Division I program Appalachian State came to Saint Augustine. Leading up to this meeting between the two programs the Saints had only suffered one loss, and it was to NCAA Division I program University of North Florida. The Saints resorted to their most lethal weapon: doubles.
Flagler College stole the first three matches against the Mountaineers, which put the Saints only one win away from once again shocking the college tennis world. Sophomore Lizanne Jinkertz clinched it for the Saints defeating Appalachian State’s line two singles player Melissa Machado 6-4, 6-4.
The dominance of the Saints continued as they shutout Montevallo with an 8-0 rout on Saturday and an 8-1 victory against Clayton State today. The victory now brings the ladies to 12-1 overall on the season, with their only loss coming to the University of North Florida last month. The win also sets a record for the program’s best 12-game start to a season, beating the 2014 record where they started out 10-2 on the season.
Since the upset over Saint Leo, the Saints have outplayed opponents 36-6 in matches won, and knocked off a Division I program, “Rod (Puebla) always tells us that you have to go in fighting with your head in the match,” said junior Kelly Burge. “We fight together and keep each other pumped up throughout the matches. The winning streak we are on is amazing, but our work is far from over.
“We fight together and keep each other pumped up throughout the matches. The winning streak we are on is amazing, but our work is far from over. Going into these next matches we just plan on staying focused and getting the job done,” said senior Kelly Stewart.
If you have been sitting in the stands at all this season for one of their matches, you would hear a charismatic grunt or cheer as the girls try to support each other from all areas of the facility. In many sports, you can sense teammates supporting each other when a goal is scored or a touchdown is caught, but with these girls it is different says sophomore Laura Kelly.
“We all just have so much dedication for the game, that we love to show up on gamedays however we can.”
From the second, they step on the court, you hear, “Let’s go girls or Let’s go saints!” The emotion and intensity that each one puts into their games have clearly brought out the best in their talents. In sports, support and the ability to push one another provides benefits in the long run as it can be motivation for the entire program.
With a lot of young talent being major contributors to the continuing success, opportunities will continue to arise this year and the year’s to come for the Saints.
The Saints will travel to South Florida this weekend to take on national powerhouses No. 7 Nova Southeastern and No. 5 Lynn University. The Saints have caught the attention of the Southeast Region. Now it’s time to take their place on top of the food chain.