After a slow start that featured losses, injury and match cancellations, the Villanova women’s tennis team captured its first win of the season on Sunday, Mar. 20, in a dominant 5-2 victory over Drexel.
Although the Wildcats won five singles matches against the Dragons when the teams last went head-to-head at the Villanova Invitational in September, they struggled in doubles, winning only the final of three matches. This weekend, when the teams met again, the ‘Cats struck back. Despite Drexel earning the third-seeded doubles win, senior Annalize Klopfer and freshman Emma Brogan countered with a 6-4 victory over the Dragons’ first doubles pair. Freshman Valieriia Kornieva and senior Sabina Gregorian followed with another 6-4 win in the second slot to secure the doubles point for Villanova.
“All three doubles combinations were new, and we won the doubles point, which was great because it helps give you momentum into the singles,” head coach Steve Reiniger said. “That was the first time we’ve won the doubles point all year, and I think it helped. We’ve been working on doubles pretty consistently throughout the last couple weeks, and it definitely showed up in the match today. “
Fired up from the team’s doubles win, Klopfer made quick work of her opponent in the top-seeded singles match of the day, going 6-3, 6-4 to earn her team-best fifth singles victory of the season. Throughout her two seasons at Villanova after transferring from Navy in 2020, Klopfer has emerged as a star, shining week after week in the number one position.
“She’s super competitive, and I mean it in a good way,” Reiniger said of Klopfer’s performance this season. “She competes with class, but she always comes out and always performs well during matches. I think the rest of the team kind of takes her lead di lei. “
Senior Emily Strande, the team’s usual number two player, is currently out with an injury. Brogan and junior Caitlin Fisher competed up a spot but were both defeated in hard-fought No. 2 and 3 matches, respectively. However, the ‘Cats were not to be counted out. Key wins in the fourth, fifth and sixth-seeded matches clinched the team’s victory.
Kornieva earned her second win of the day in a decisive 6-1, 6-1 match against Aida Garcia Mendez in the fifth slot, just before junior Amanda Rivera-Gonzalez held on 6-1, 6-4 to defeat Drexel’s Pauline Kharkover in the sixth-seeded pairing. Sophomore Bella Steffen rounded out the day by besting Corte Gonzalez in the fourth slot, 6-4, 6-4.
This dominant win is a testament to the hard work, growth and adaptability of Villanova’s players over the course of the season, according to Reiniger. The ‘Cats hope to build on this momentum heading into upcoming matches this week against Temple and Seton Hall.
“It’s just really to work off the way we played doubles today, to maintain or even improve on our performance today,” Reiniger said of the team’s focus for their next matches. “The shot selection was better, we’re a little bit more confident at net, we know where to go with the ball in certain situations, so I expect an equally as good performance at our next match as today.”
Although this week’s competitions will pose a challenge for the Wildcats, who fell to Temple in the Villanova Invitational in all but one match and have yet to play Seton Hall this season, they will have home-court advantage for the first time this spring.
“Unlike certain sports where it’s more like the fan support that helps the team, in tennis, the court surface itself can change the speed of the court,” Reiniger said. “If you’re familiar with your own courts, it’s a little bit easier to play at home than on a different surface of a different speed.”
The ‘Cats will look to capitalize on this advantage as they face off against the Temple Owls at 3 pm on Wednesday, Mar. 23, before hosting Seton Hall on Sunday, Mar. 27 for the first Big East dual match of the season. Although they are tough matchups, if Villanova can continue its upward trajectory and lock down wins at home this week, it will move into a solid 3-5 position as the season reaches its midway point.