Women's Tennis Team Continues To Improve
Starting the 2004-05 season with virtually its entire squad back from the previous year, Oaklandís womenís tennis team had expectations of taking more steps along the path of building the program into a top contender in the Mid-Continent Conference. While the teamís record might not have shown improvement on the surface, Oakland found itself in contention in most of its conference matches and was just a doubles point here and a singles win there from contending for a conference tournament berth. When all was said and done, Oakland finished the season with a .500 or better record in all but two of the six singles flights in Mid-Con play, nearly doubling its conference win totals across both singles and doubles play from 2004. By the end of the season the Golden Grizzlies were turning their improved play into wins, closing out the season with two straight victories to finish with a 3-15 overall record and a 2-6, seventh-place finish in the Mid-Con.
It was tough for the Golden Grizzlies at the start of the season, with the team starting off by losing all four of its matches during fall play. Freshman Teuta Lulgjuraj (Warren, Mich.) showed some the talent that would eventually take her to the No. 1 singles position by the end of the year, taking two of her four matches at No. 2 singles to join sophomore Angie Trecola (Troy, Mich.) with 2-2 singles marks in fall play to lead the squad.
Oakland won at least two matches in all of their fall outings but one and were in contention in a number of others, with a number of three-set matches going against the Golden Grizzlies. The closest match in the fall came against Chicago State, where Oakland battled the Cougars down to the wire before CSU prevailed 4-3. The Golden Grizzlies were in contention in every singles match, winning the bottom three flights for their three points. Trecola (4S) and Lauren Sanchez-Murphy (Rochester Hills, Mich.) (6S) each picked up come-from-behind wins in their matches, with Trecola coming out on top by a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 score and Sanchez-Murphy taking a 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 victory.
Starting the spring season with a 5-2 loss to Cleveland State, Oakland continued to have trouble finding enough points to win matches, despite seeing improved play across the board. Despite coming close a number of times, Oakland still did not have a victory in the win column when it started Mid-Con play in Indianapolis at the end of March. One change that was made just before the move into conference action was the flopping of Lulgjuraj and junior Lisa Pellafone (Rochester, Mich.) between the Nos. 1 and 2 singles positions. It turned out to be a move that benefited both players.
Despite the pressure of playing No. 1 as a freshman, Lulgjuraj wound up with a 5-3 mark in Mid-Con play, including picking up a win over All-Mid-Con players Kim Beynon of Southern Utah and Robbie Barnett of Chicago State. Pellafone also played well down the stretch, picking up four of her five wins on the season after making the switch.
After dropping its first two Mid-Con matches at the cluster in Indy, Oakland broke through for its first win of the season in a big way, blanking UMKC 7-0. Lulgjuraj and Pellafone led the way in dominating fashion, with both winning their singles matches by 6-0, 6-0 scores. Sanchez-Murphy (5S) and Laura Blankenship (Rochester, Mich.) (6S) were nearly perfect as well, dropping just one game in their straight set victories.
The win seemed to boost the teamís confidence and, despite still coming up short of points to get wins, saw the scores of their matches get closer as the season moved ahead. Over the next week Oaklandís singles players saw 10 of their singles matches go to three sets, but the Golden Grizzlies could only come up with a win in one of those. Three contests; IPFW, Centenary and Oral Roberts, were close enough that a win in one of those matches could have brought the Golden Grizzlies a victory and moved them to a .500 record in the Mid-Con.
Against Oral Roberts, a team that made the Mid-Con Tournament, Oakland played one of its most competitive matches of the season, falling by just a point to the Golden Eagles, 4-3. The match came down to the middle singles flights, where Jessica Erickson (Port Huron, Mich.) (4S) picked up a hard-fought 7-6, 6-3 win over her opponent while Trecola (3S) fell in a tough 3-6, 6-4, 0-6 match.
Disappointing as the loss may have been, the Golden Grizzlies bounced back for a decisive 5-1 win over Western Illinois, getting wins from Lulgjuraj, Trecola, Erickson and Sanchez-Murphy to get the team back into the win column. From there OU rode the momentum of the win over the Westerwinds to close the season with a victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a 5-2 decision.
Lulgjuraj finished the season by leading Oakland in wins, posting a 10-8 overall record in singles play and going 5-3 in Mid-Con action. Sanchez-Murphy was second on the team in wins with her 8-10 singles mark, going 4-4 in conference play. Erickson and Trecola were next on the singles wins list, with each going 7-11 overall and 4-4 in Mid-Con action, giving OU four players with a .500 or better record in Mid-Con action for the first time since the Golden Grizzlies joined the conference.
As they did this season, Oakland will return virtually all of its players for 2005-06. If the team can continue to make the strides that it did in 2005 the Golden Grizzlies should continue to make their climb in the final Mid-Con standings.