Sun Devil Tennis defeats NAU Lumberjacks, 6-1
For the first time in over a month, the Arizona State women's tennis team (1-0; 0-0 Pac-12) took to the court, opening the spring 2012 season defeating Northern Arizona University, 6-1, on Saturday afternoon at the Whiteman Tennis Center in Tempe, Ariz.
In her 29th season, Arizona State Head Coach Sheila McInerney has been through her fair share of opening weekends. This year's opening match, one that lasted just under three hours, proved challenging for the Devils against a strong NAU team that returned six at the top of their lineup from last season. Although the score showed a strong Sun Devil showing, McInerney stressed the room for improvement.
"I think overall we need to get better. In some ways it was good that it was a bit of a struggle, from that stand point I think the kids will learn from it. I thought we struggled and I'm actually a little bit surprised," McInerney said.
Seniors Hannah James and Nicole Smith set the pace for the underclassmen, with James earning a win against Nicole Perez on the No. 6 singles court. Nicole Smith did her fair share of helping out freshman Ebony Panoho, who dressed in a Sun Devil uniform for the first time, on the No. 1 doubles court, defeating Hannah Stone and Johanna Vang 8-3.
Northern Arizona took Arizona State to three sets in two matches -- with ASU earning points for both of the tiebreakers. Krawczyk defeated Hannah Stone on the main stage 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, while her teammate Joanna Smith defeated Alicia Pacaut 6-0, 1-6, 6-0 a few courts down. Both matches saw big wins in the first set, but then what followed those first sets is something McInerney has seen many times before.
"Sometimes when you win a first set easy you assume that the next set is going to be just as easy. It's just a matter of getting out there and just really competing well -- but you have to give NAU credit, they played well. They played two matches yesterday, they went out there with nothing to lose and they played well," McInerney said.
Freshman Ebony Panoho also competed in two very tough sets, ultimately falling 7-5, 7-5 to Malia Wahiepio. This was the first regular season collegiate matchup on American courts for the first semester freshman. Panoho joined the team during the fall season after moving to the United States from Australia to play for ASU. Panoho is focused on taking away a positive from every situation and using each and every match as a place to refine her skills.
"I learned a lot in this first one," Panoho said. "(I think) maybe trying to use my forehand a little bit more just to dictate points. There was a little bit of a struggle with some shot selection but other than that I was fine."
With UC Davis on the schedule for ASU tomorrow afternoon, there is a small window of time to learn from mistakes made today. But McInerney believes the issues experienced today will work themselves out.
"It's just getting back into playing matches, you have to imagine a lot of these points are going to go long. When you're playing your teammates you know how they play. These kids (NAU) however, you don't know how they play so you have to figure out a strategy and you have to stick to it," McInerney said.
And while the team can mark a tally in the win column for today, they know that win or lose their is always something to gain from each experience.
"Obviously we won the match, winning eight out of nine individual matches so you can't be too disappointed, but could we have played better? Yeah, absolutely," McInerney said.
1. Nicole Smith/Ebony Panoho (ASU) def. Hannah Stone/Johanna Vang (NAU) 8-3
2. Joanna Smith/Lieghann Sahagun (ASU) vs. Nicole Perez/Ghizelene Dobollah (NAU) 6-5 DNF
3. Desirae Krawczyk/Stephanie Vlad (ASU) def. Alice Pacaut/Malia Wahinepio (NAU) 8-1
1. Desirae Krawczyk (ASU) def. Hannah Stone (NAU) 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
2. Stephanie Vlad (ASU) def. Ghizelene Doballah (NAU) 6-1, 7-5
3. Leighann Sahagun (ASU) def. Joanna Yang (NAU) 6-0, 6-4
4. Malia Wahinepio (NAU) def. Ebony Panoho (ASU) 7-5, 7-5
5. Joanna Smith (ASU) def. Alicia Pacaut (NAU) 6-0, 1-6, 6-0
6. Hannah James (ASU) def. Nicole Perez (NAU) 6-3, 6-3