, Beacon Staff/strong
Coach John Nestel stepped onto the Mount Ida tennis courts in Newton, Mass. just as he did when he became the college’s first-ever women’s tennis coach in 2009. This time, however, Nestel was sporting purple instead of his usual green and white as his new Emerson College Lions took on his old Mustangs.
“You develop a bond with the players, so it was nice to see the Mount Ida players, players that I got to work with for a few years,” Nestel said in a phone interview.
Nestel coached Mount Ida to its first-ever Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) playoff appearance back in 2010.
“I also saw new players that I had recruited but not had a chance to see play, and some players that had graduated came back to see me as well,” Nestel said.
After the reunion, however, the coach said it was all business.
“Once the match starts, you have to compete, no matter who’s on the other side of the net,” he said. “That’s what I told our girls. It’s our first conference match, and we’ve got to compete every point and every game as hard as possible.”
And compete they did.
The Lions dominated the Mustangs on all fronts, losing only five games in total on the way to a 9-0 sweep.
It was a match that pitted youth against experience. Emerson fielded a squad of mostly sophomores and freshmen against a Mount Ida team that has played three more matches together than the Lions this season. Three freshmen recorded their first-ever wins, including Alanna Grady, who defeated Ida’s senior Loni Klimbach in the sixth singles spot. Alicia Pellegrin and Natalie Nicholas teamed up for a doubles victory over the Mustang’s team of sisters Elyse and Kayla Horton.
Pellegrin, a sophomore journalism major, said the team chemistry will get better the more games it puts under its belt.
“I feel a lot closer to my team this year, and I have hopes that we’re going to do just as good as we did last year,” she said.
Sophomore Lacey Russell handed Mount Ida’s Elizabeth Olszewski her first losses on the season, beating her in both singles and doubles.
With the sweep, Emerson recorded its first win of the season after winning only one match in the previous two contests. Mount Ida fell to 4-2 in its first year under new coach Dan Munsey.
This match also marked the first GNAC contest for the Lions after a Sept. 10 match against Albertus Magnus was postponed.
After facing Mount Ida, Emerson went on to play Anna Maria.
In its second consecutive impressive outing, Emerson defeated the AMCATS 9-0, marking Emerson’s second consecutive sweep, both coming in conference.
Lions’ sophomore Savannah Mosser bageled her opponents in her first singles and second doubles matches. Freshman Jana Winfield also shut out her opponent in the fifth singles match.
Conference play will continue for the Lions, who will take on the GNAC powerhouse Simmons on the 24th. Simmons has won the GNAC six out of the past seven seasons and made it to the NCAA Division 3 Tournament this summer.
Knocking off Simmons may seem like a daunting task, but Nestel remains optimistic about his young team.
“We’ve got three starting freshmen and two sophomores who’ve done quite well,” Nestel said. “We definitely look forward to playing our conference opponents.”
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