By Rich Wehman

Staff Writer

Heading into the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament on Saturday, the Denison women’s tennis team was playing at its highest level of the season. The ladies were not only optimistic about their upcoming matches, but also determined to get a little piece of revenge on conference opponents who got the best of them earlier in the season.

The Big Red protected their home court in the semifinals with an emphatic 5-2 victory over the Oberlin Yeomen at the Mitchell Fieldhouse in Granville, Ohio. The thrilling semifinal showdown was highlighted by some strong play early in the doubles matches. The freshman duo of Rochell Issa ’18 and Courtney Brown ’18 managed to defeat Jackie McDermott and Emma Brezel in convincing fashion as they cruised to an 8-2 victory.

After a fantastic start to the contest, the Big Red secured the match victory with wins at the top two singles flights. Taylor Hawkins ’16 proved to be the match-clinching point with her three set victory over Grace Porter at No. 1 singles. Despite dropping the opening set 6-3, Hawkins battled back, winning two consecutive sets  (6-4, 6-1). 

Meg Chiumento ’16 was also a crucial piece in the Big Red’s victorious efforts; she defeated McDermott in straight sets at third singles. The intensity and teamwork displayed by the Big Red proved to be the difference in the contest.

“Oberlin is a very tough opponent, but confidence is key,” Chiumento said. “We trusted our game and left it all out on the court. Wins don’t come easily in the postseason and you have to trust your team. You win as a team and you lose as a team. We had the fire against Oberlin that carried us through to the finals.”

With the win, Denison earned the right to face off against longtime rival and first seeded DePauw Tigers on Sunday, a rematch of last year’s North Coast Athletic Conference Championship match.

The Tigers swept the second seeded Big Red 6-0 in the final. The sixth point was finished out of the first flight because it featured two regionally ranked opponents going head-to-head.  DePauw’s Marshall defeated Denison’s Hawkins, 6-1, 6-1 capping off the tournament.

Despite a disappointing finish to the conference tournament, the 2015 season proved to be an extremely successful one. Heather Abzug ’15 finished up the last match of her Denison career and found her experiences to be extremely rewarding.

“Being a part of the tennis team has helped me value my time and taught me the importance of diligence and hard work, whether it was on the court or in the classroom,” Abzug said. “This season has been one of the best, both in terms of our successes and also in terms of the closeness of our team.”

Denison only graduates one senior and is determined to return to the conference final and beat DePauw. “We have 13 talented players and several top recruits coming in next year,” Emily Holloway ‘17 said. “We hope to build on our accomplishments this year and improve our doubles play for next season.”

Denison’s season comes to a close with a record of 15-8.  They were ranked 24th in the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association national rankings.