Tennis Recap: Allen Wins For Women, Men Sweep On Sunday

Claire Ely
Contributing Writer

Déjà Vu For The Women’s Squad

This time last year, Natalie Allen fell in the deciding set against the Wright State Raiders. This year, she had the chance to redeem herself as the University of Dayton women’s tennis team again went down to the wire with the Raiders at the Five Seasons Sports Club Sunday morning.

Allen, a sophomore playing in UD’s No. 6 singles spot, rallied together four consecutive game wins to seal a third-set victory, and the deciding point, over Wright State.

“Natalie lost the deciding match for us last year against Wright State and that’s kind of in the back of your mind while you’re playing the deciding match again,” said Coach Erika Echko afterwards. “But she hardly made any errors the last three games and was able to get it done.”

There has always been good competition between the Raiders and the Flyers, with many players competing against one another since middle school. Matches between the two universities have been impeccably close in the past, ending 4-3 in each of the past four seasons, dating back to 2015.

“We both recruit kids from a similar geographic footprint,” Echko said. “A lot of these girls know each other and have been competing against one another since they were 12 years old, which always adds an exciting element to the match.”
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The day began with the Raiders defeating the Flyers in two of the three matches of doubles play.

Nevertheless, losing the double’s point did not discourage the Flyers. They were able to win four out of six singles matches, defeating Wright State with a final score of 4-3.

With Dayton’s No. 1 player, senior Marlys Bridgham, and No. 3 player, senior Jackie Kawamoto, falling to their opponents, certain teammates had to step up.

“I was very pleased to see the depth of our team today and was really proud of the people who stepped up like (freshman) Kelly Pleiman, (junior) Mattea Kilstofte, and (sophomore) Natalie Allen,” Echko said.

Allen certainly had to rise to the occasion as she found herself fighting to win the deciding match once again. Yet even after losing the first set, she remained optimistic.

“You can get discouraged really easily, especially after losing the first set,” Allen said. “But you just have to stay positive and believe you will win the next one.”

With the loyal spectators engaged and her teammates cheering her on, Allen won the next two sets, solidifying the overall win for the Flyers with their fourth and deciding point.

“Having all that energy around you really feeds into the match and keeps you confident,” Allen said.
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Convincing W For The Men’s Team

Dayton’s men’s team defeated both Eastern Illinois and Wright State at the Five Seasons Sports Club on Sunday as well, following the conclusion of the women’s match.

Although the team had a close loss to Butler on Friday, they remained positive.

The mindset today was the same as it always should be, and that’s win or go home,”  said three-time All-Atlantic 10 honoree senior Zach Berry. “We have a talented group here and we expect to win every time we come out on the court.”

Berry also emphasized the importance of coming out strong and starting fast in the match.

A lot of energy comes from doubles. It’s a confidence booster that gives us something to feed off of heading into singles play and we don’t take (coming out to fast start) for granted.”

Indeed, the Flyers started off strong and remained that way throughout the entirety of both matches, defeating both opponents 4-0 in an overall blowout.

What’s next?

Moving forward, The Flyers have some important matches that are vital to their overall conference seeds.

The women will travel to Pittsburgh, Feb. 9 to play conference opponent Duquesne at 1 p.m.

The men will also face Duquesne in addition to George Mason.

“This next weekend is going to mean a lot to us,” Berry said. “We’re going to have to go on the road and fight, hopefully get two wins and then we’ll move on from there.”

Photo Courtesy of Erik Schelkun/Dayton Athletics