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Young Tennis Squad Contends for Mid-Con Tournament Berth

Despite having a small roster of players for most of the season and a challenging schedule, the Oakland womenís tennis team was in contention in the race for a spot in the Mid-Continent Conference tournament all the way until the final day of league competition. While the final win-loss record (4-12, 2-5 Mid-Con) was not what the Golden Grizzlies were looking for, the team nonetheless turned in a solid season and laid another building block for future success.

Senior Jessica Erickson led Oakland in singles wins in 2006-07 and was a Mid-Con Player of the Week selection.

After opening up the fall portion of the schedule with a non-scored match with cross-town rival Detroit, Oakland split a pair of matches on the road in Niagara Falls, New York, falling to host Niagara before taking a 6-1 win over St. Francis (Pa.). Seniors Jessica Erickson (Port Huron, Mich.) and Lauren Sanchez-Murphy (Rochester Hills, Mich.) led the way for OU in the first dual matches of the season, with the pair combining to win both of their doubles matches as well as both picking up singles wins against St. Francis.

Oakland did not play again until February when the team made the trek to Fort Wayne, Indiana to face off against host IPFW and Eastern Illinois. In the first match against Eastern Illinois it was the Panthers that came out on top, taking a 6-1 win over the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland then fell in a close one to IPFW, falling by a 4-3 score. Erickson was a part of three wins over the weekend for OU, teaming with freshman Gabrielle Gogas (Sarnia, Ontario) for two wins in doubles play and picking up a singles win in the match with Eastern Illinois.

Playing its first match at home this spring season at the end of February, Oakland played a close one against Dayton in a contest that saw a pair of key singles matches go to three sets. Dayton picked up wins in both of those and it was enough for the Flyers to take a 5-2 win. Erickson continued her strong early season play, winning both her singles and doubles matches that led to her selection as the Mid-Conís Player of the Week. It was the first Player of the Week award in her career and the only time during the season that an OU players was selected for the honor.

Oakland then took off on a weekend trip that saw the Golden Grizzlies play three matches in as many days in Ohio. After getting blanked at Akron, Oakland moved on to Cleveland where it played both Cleveland State and Chicago State. On Saturday OU fell to host Cleveland State in a close, 4-3, decision before coming back on Sunday to down Chicago State by a 5-2 score for its first victory of the spring season. Sophomore Michelle Maxfield (Commerce Twp., Mich.) won two singles matches and one doubles match to lead the Golden Grizzlies in wins over the course of the two matches.

Next up for the Golden Grizzlies was the start of Mid-Con play with the arrival of April. Oakland headed all the way out to Las Vegas for its first conference weekend where it met three tough teams in Oral Roberts, Southern Utah and Valparaiso. On the opening day OU dropped both matches, with Oral Roberts taking a 7-0 win in the first match of the day before Southern Utah scored a 5-2 victory in the second. Sophomore Amanda Scheer (Sarnia, Ontario) was the bright spot during the dayís play, picking up a pair of wins in the match with Southern Utah.

Oaklandís strong start in the fall did not carry over into its first matches of the spring season, however. Battling injuries and the layoff between the seasons, the Golden Grizzlies won just two of their first eight matches of the spring season, both 4-3 wins over Southern Utah in non-conference action against the Thunderbirds on the teamís trip to Las Vegas.

Valparaiso also held down the Golden Grizzlies on the second day in a 4-3 win that saw Oakland win just one match on the court, an 8-6 win at No. 3 doubles by Maxfield and Gogas.

Despite coming out of Las Vegas without a win, Oakland was still in contention for a tournament slot and had the advantage of hosting its final conference matches at home. Before hosting the Mid-Con matches the Golden Grizzlies tuned up at home against future conference foe IPFW. Things did not go OUís way, however, as the Mastodons blanked OU, 7-0, with the only win for the Golden Grizzlies a victory at No. 3 doubles by Maxfield and Gogas.

Needing at least three wins in its four Mid-Con matches to stay in contention for a tournament berth, Oakland turned things around and pitched a couple of shutouts of its own on the first day, blanking both UMKC and Centenary, 7-0. Friday the 13th was indeed a good day for OU as Sanchez-Murphy swept through her singles matches with out dropping a game with Scheer dropping only one as the pair led the Golden Grizzlies back into the mix for a Mid-Con Tournament berth.

Oaklandís playoff hopes came down to a key match with Western Illinois the next day. It was close but no cigar, however, as the Westerwinds came away with a tight, 4-3 win. After WIU scored the doubles point, singles play proved to be both exciting and drawn out as four of the five matches that were finished went to three sets. After the Westerwinds got a straight sets win at No. 1 singles to take a 2-0 lead in the match, Maxfield attempted to get OUís first point of the day, coming back after dropping the first set in No. 3 singles to take the second by a 6-2 margin. In the third set her opponent prevailed, however, and WIU was just one point away from taking the match.

Oakland then came up two wins, with Scheer getting the first point for OU at No. 2 singles. In another three-set affair she won the first set, dropped the second and then came back to take the third 6-3 to pick up the victory. Erickson then followed the same route, winning the first and third sets on her way to her third win of the weekend as well at No. 4 singles. The match came down to the decision at No. 5 where Gogas got past her opponent in the first set only to fall in the final two sets, a loss that gave Western Illinois the deciding point.

Despite the disappointment at the end of the season, the Oakland womenís tennis team showed that it could be an up and comer next season. The Golden Grizzlies received some strong play from its young players, and the addition of another strong recruiting class should push OU closer to that elusive conference playoff position.