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After just three of its first 10 matches this spring, the Barton College women’s tennis team turned Saturday’s regular-season finale against Southern Wesleyan University into a formality at Barton Tennis Complex.
With their fifth straight win and eighth in the last nine outings — all against NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas opponents — the Lady Bulldogs, with just seven players on their roster, secured the No. 2 seed for next weekend’s league tournament following a 7-2 victory.
Four of Barton’s seven wins came by either retirement or default, as the Lady Bulldogs ended the regular season finished 13-9 overall and 9-2 in conference play. Although third in the final standings behind No. 1 Chowan University and No. 2 Emmanuel, the latter remains ineligible for postseason play in Conference Carolinas. Thus, Barton ascends to the second spot and will face No. 7 seed SWU (7-11, 4-7 CC) at Palmetto Tennis Center in Sumter, S.C., in one of four Friday quarterfinals.
On the men’s side, Barton wrapped up its regular season with wins in three of its final four matches, doubling up the Warriors on Saturday with a 6-3 victory. The Bulldogs, 6-12 overall and 4-6 against conference opposition, finished with the No. 7 seed. One year after running through the conference tournament en route to an NCAA tournament bid, Barton will take on No. 2 seed and archrival University of Mount Olive at noon, also at Palmetto Tennis Center. A scheduled nonconference match at Div. I East Carolina, originally set for Sunday, was canceled.
Southern Wesleyan (6-14, 2-8) grabbed the No. 8 and final men’s seed into the tournament field.
Even though the Lady Bulldogs held a 2-1 lead entering the singles portion of their match, little doubt existed as to the outcome. With SWU’s default at No. 3 doubles, that also translated to a second default at No. 6 singles. Sophomore and team captain Marissa Stevenson, who won her 13th consecutive match, was not tested against SWU’s Jennifer Ball in the No. 2 position. Stevenson owned a 4-0 lead against Ball in the first set before the latter retired. It moved Stevenson to 17-2 on the season in just her third match at No. 2 singles, completing an unbeaten conference season at 11-0. She had previously played No. 3 before making a late-season switch with junior Vanessa Sanoja.
“It’s more difficult when you keep moving positions, number 2 and number 3,” Stevenson said. “But as captain, I think I needed to show the team how it’s done and lead the team to get the victory. It was tough having the first few matches we had as losses because they were really good teams. But as we went into conference, we knew how important it was to start getting victories, to get the confidence throughout the rest of the season.”
After five losses by a 5-4 margin last season, Barton has posted a 2-1 record in such encounters in 2018.
At No. 4 singles, freshman Ada Vargas picked up another win via retirement against SWU’s Chyna Jones. The clincher was in the No. 5 spot as Claudia Capellades turned in a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Jessica Sparks. Sanoja battled through her share of mental moments after the outcome was clinched to get a hard fought 7-5, 7-5 verdict against Kristi Cooper at No. 3.
Instead of a Senior Day observation for a pair of teams lacking a fourth-year player, Barton’s men finished off a regular season that featured eight of nine underclassmen, with junior Jesus Gil as the elder statesman.
A 2-1 advantage after doubles boosted the Bulldogs to victory after the Nos. 3-6 positions finished matters for the Bulldogs. It was Gil that turned in the toughest win of the bunch, needing three sets to dispatch Sam Dekker at No, 4 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Freshman Diego Agudelo at No. 3, freshman Alessandro Gerbino at No. 5 and sophomore Ermanno Galimberti at No. 6 all prevailed in straight sets to get Barton the clinching points. Gerbino won his 10th match in 13 tries at No. 5, the best winning percentage of any Barton player at any flight with at least three matches played.
Galimberi won his fourth straight match to finish 5-4 in singles, all at the No. 6 spot.
“The future looks pretty bright,” first-year Barton head coach Lee Underwood said “I’ve got to bring in a better top of the lineup with the men’s team. With the women’s team, I’ve got to add to our depth.”
Underwood’s assessment of the men’s roster is backed by an 8-27 combined singles showing from the top two seeds this season, However, that figure turns to a competitive 38-27 ledger with the Nos. 3-6 positions considered. The Bulldogs are 22-32 in doubles, with losing records at every flight.
“We’re deep, but if you examine where we win, we usually pick things up from three on,” Underwood said. “But we’re so even throughout the lineup. I really need somebody to take the reins at one.”
Sophomore Rory Gaydon, Barton’s No. 1 for the entirety of the year, was taken into a third set after the outcome was decided by SWU’s Urs Widow. A super tiebreaker was played in lieu of a third set, with Widow prevailing 4-6, 7-6, 10-5.
BARTON 6, SOUTHERN WESLEYAN 3
Urs Widow (SWU) def. Rory Gaydon 4-6, 7-6, 10-5; Siggy Menzel (SWU) def. Oscar Marmestedt 6-4, 6-0; Diego Agudelo (BC) def. Daniel Bolivar 7-5, 6-3; Jesus Gil (BC) def. Sam Baker 6-4, 3-6, 6-4; Alessandro Gerbino (BC) def. Stan Grzesio 6-3, 6-1; Ermanno Galimberti (BC) def. Joseph Olatunji 6-1, 6-4
Widow-Menzel (SWU) def. Marmestedt-Agudelo 8-1; Gaydon-Gil (BC) def. Grzeslo-Bakker 8-6; Galimberi-Martijn Eleveld (BC) def. Ben Smith-Daniel Bolivar 8-1.
BARTON 7, SOUTHERN WESLEYAN 2
Alexia Rodriguez (SWU) def. Daria Avram 6-4, 6-1; Marissa Stevenson (BC) def. Jennifer Ball, ret.; Vanessa Sanoja (BC) def. Kristi Cooper 7-5, 7-5; Ada Vargas (BC) def. Chyna Jones 6-1, ret.; Claudia Capellades (BC) def. Jessica Sparks (SWU) 6-1, 6-1; Whitney Hamilton (BC) by default.
Avram-Stevenson (BC) def. Rodriguez-Ball 8-4; Cooper-Jones (SWU) def. Sanoja-Vargas 8-6; Capellades-Hamilton (BC) by default.