The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

UWEC women’s tennis clashes with Wartburg College

The women continue recent success, delivering a clean 9-0 sweep
Third-year Morgan Dekan sets up for a backhand at a previous match. Photo by Spencer Flaten from UWEC Sports Information used with permission.

The Blugolds traveled to Waverly, Iowa the weekend of April 12 for a non-conference match against Wartburg, and a last-minute scrimmage with UW-River Falls.

The scrimmage took the place of a planned duel with Iowa Central Community College which was canceled due to a shortage of players. 

After a three week long hiatus from matchplay, the team was eager to continue the positive results coming out of a spring break trip to Florida, where they took four out of their five hard-fought battles. 

This weekend delivered with straight set victories in all but one singles, and all three doubles matches. Second-year Liv Herzog and third-year Téa Armstrong decisively won their matches 6-0 6-0, and 6-1 6-0 at fifth and sixth singles respectively. 

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Head coach Ken Cychosz said team morale coming out of the trip has “never been better.”

“The girls are winning for each other, we’re winning close matches,” Cychosz said. “There’s a different hero every day.”

At the beginning of the spring leg of their season, the team experienced some tough losses at the hands of the nationally-ranked Carleton Knights and Grinnell College. Before the trip to Florida, the Blugolds were dealt a heartbreaking 4-5 defeat in a duel with St. Olaf, fifth-year Sydney Presler dropping the close deciding tiebreak 9-11.

“I think we were a little bit down at the start of the winter,” Cychosz said. “We had to learn to play without Clare Palen, so our lineup changed a little bit.”

Palen, who played in the No. 1 singles and doubles spots, graduated at the end of the fall semester.

Third-year Samantha Fuchs has done well at the No. 1 singles spot, winning three out of five matches at the top position so far. The biggest challenge with the loss of Palen, according to Cychosz, was the new doubles pairings.

“It took us a while to gain confidence … where they started winning and fighting for each other,” Fuchs said. “I attribute all of that to the girls, they’ve done a great job together.”

The Blugolds second doubles pairing is made up of Presler and third-year Morgan Dekan, also former local high school teammates at Altoona High School. 

“Morgan likes to volley, while I’m more comfortable at the baseline,” Presler said. “Having that understanding helps us construct points that play to our strengths.” 

Dekan had to battle back at number three singles this past weekend after dropping the first set 2-6. She flipped the script in the second, taking it 6-2, before narrowly edging out her opponent 13-11 in an intense third-set tiebreak. 

“I think all the matches we’ve been playing have helped, because we’ve been getting a lot of match experience, and you can’t get that in practice,” Dekan said. “And so all the matches we had over spring break kinda prepared us for these tougher matches as we get to the end of the season.”

Dekan didn’t play the way she wanted to in the first set, but somehow “found her groove” in the second, before saving multiple match points to win in the tiebreak. Her secret to staying calm under pressure – singing. 

“I sing when I play. Not out loud or to anyone, but like under my breath,” she said. “It looks like I’m talking to myself, but I’m usually singing lyrics to a song that’s stuck in my head.”

This weekend the song that aided in her win was “Too Sweet” by Hozier, but sometimes it’s Maisie Peters, a favorite artist of hers.

“It pulls me out of a match. It grounds me [so] that I’m not focused on the last point or the next point or anything – I’m just focused on loosening up and enjoying it,” Dekan said. 

Presler and Dekan have proven quite the formidable pair in doubles, but Dekan has struggled at her third-singles spot this season. This weekend’s win was an impressive show of mental strength and provided much-needed confidence entering the tail end of the season. 

“[It helped] having the team there supporting me, my family there, and the coaches watching and cheering for me,” Dekan said. “I’m winning now, we turned a corner hopefully.”

Dekan also emphasized the importance of maintaining the bonds the team has developed in the last stretch of the 2023-24 season and looking towards next fall. Hanging out outside of tennis has allowed them to compete better during matches and know each other’s tendencies so they can help support each other during matches. 

The Blugolds are 11-6 going into a pair of duels this coming weekend against Wheaton College in Illinois and Carthage in Racine, Wisconsin, before heading to Whitewater for the NCAA qualifiers on April 27. 

“We’ve got some good competition in April…we’re playing another regional power in Wheaton,” Cychosz said. “I didn’t lighten the load for the ladies.”

Both the men and women will next face Wheaton this Saturday, April 20. 

Heidtke can be reached at [email protected]

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