NORTH DARTMOUTH, MA -- The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth women's tennis team has been knocking on the Little East Conference championship door for the past several autumns. This year, the Corsairs will try to earn their first league championship since 2008.
UMass Dartmouth was picked to second in the annual LEC coaches' poll. "The preseason poll indicates that we are a legitimate contender for the LEC title, which is exactly where we want to be," said UMD Head Coach Doug Chapman, who begins his first full season at the helm. Chapman succeeded Ralph Perry, who retired after 14 seasons, in January. In his first semester, Chapman guided the Corsairs to a first-place overall finish at the Hard Court Triples Tournament, a spring event hosted by Salve Regina.
"We have seven experienced players back from a 10-2 team (7-1 LEC), as well as several talented newcomers to provide quality depth. While we are solid on paper, we know our achievements will be earned on the court. Bridgewater State will be very strong again and the league as a whole is getting better."
The Corsairs return all six singles starters from last year's second place team, as well as five of six regular doubles starters. Headlining the returnees are tri-captains Nicole Pelletier (Senior, Swansea, MA/Case HS), Hannah Schulze (Junior, Chelmsford, MA/Chelmsford HS) and Angela Pollard (Senior, Portsmouth, RI/Portsmouth HS). Pelletier, the LEC Rookie of the Year in 2010, returns for her third season as the Corsairs' No. 1 singles player. Schulze and Pollard, virtually interchangeable at the number two and three singles positions, are returning LEC all-stars (Schulze was a first-team selection and Pollard a second team pick, both in doubles).
"We are very fortunate to have three captains that excel on the court, in the classroom and help to create a positive, welcoming team atmosphere," said Chapman. "I sat down with the freshmen after the first week of pre-season and it was great to hear that they already felt 'at home' being on the team."
The Corsairs also return last season's Nos. 4 – 6 starters in seniors Allison Furtado (Fairhaven, MA/Fairhaven HS), Liz Cignoli (Springfield, MA/Cathedral HS) and Casey Auman (Dartmouth, MA/Dartmouth HS), as well as classmate Alex Post (Plymouth, MA/Plymouth North HS), who posted several victories in a reserve role. Furtado was a LEC second team doubles all-star playing with Pollard, her partner for the previous three years. Auman was a LEC second team all-star at No. 6 singles.
Furtado is likely to return at No. 4 singles and again team with Pollard. Auman and Cignoli are in close competition for the No. 5 spot in singles, and could also feature in doubles where both have experience playing at No. 1 with Pelletier.
The Corsairs graduated one starter (No. 3 doubles specialist Liz Girzcyc, a LEC first team all-star with Schulze) while senior Daniela Roman (Somerset, MA), who started half of the matches in singles and lost only once, is studying aboard in Australia this semester. Senior Lindsay Butler (Newport, RI/Rogers HS), who joined the team in the spring and a split a pair of matches at the Hard Court Triples, also returns to the fold.
UMass Dartmouth welcomes six new players to the tennis roster, and a trio of freshmen could make an immediate impact: Katelyn Capone (Abington, MA/Abington HS), Rosalie Kimba (Milford, MA/Milford HS) and Jillian Reichert (Marion, MA/Old Rochester Regional HS). Capone was the No. 1 singles player the past two springs at Abington; Kimba was a four-year starter and three-year singles player at Milford, while Reichert was part of four championship squads at Old Rochester.
"There is not a great deal of difference between our veterans in the final three singles positions and those three freshmen, other than experience," said Chapman. "We have some quality depth."
Capone has a slight edge over her classmates in singles, while Kimba and Reichert could be an early part of the doubles set-up. Freshmen Sade Smith (Springfield, MA/Springfield Central HS) and Brandi Bass (Springfield, MA/Springfield Renaissance HS) and sophomore newcomer Uzo Nwankwo (Boston, MA/Pacific Rim HS) are working hard on their games to be match contributors.
Helping to lead the Corsairs this season is new assistant coach Kayleigh Holt, who was a four-year all-star at No. 1 singles and doubles at Emerson College following an outstanding high school playing career at Somerset High School.
"We have the potential to be a very good team," said Chapman. "In order to reach our goals, it will take a lot of hard work and commitment to be the best that we can be."
The Corsairs will begin their season September 14th at the College Grass Court Doubles Invitational at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI.
UMASS DARTMOUTH TENNIS