After a 1-11 finish Friday in its first day at the Princeton Invitational, the Owls responded with a 4-8 record in both singles and doubles Saturday against Syracuse University and Princeton University.
Before the start of the team’s matches, assistant coach Frederika Girsang decided to experiment at first and third doubles, moving junior Anais Nussaume to first doubles with sophomore Alina Abdurakhimova, and pairing sophomore Yana Khon, who normally plays at first doubles, with senior Minami Okajima at third doubles.
The new doubles teams went 0-4 on the day, but Girsang said each team showed promise.
“We liked what we saw with this new combination,” Girsang said. “It’s early this season and things can change, but it’s a good thing that we tried it and we can improve more.”
The Owls lone doubles win came in the second round against Princeton, as juniors Mariana Bedon and Dina Karina, picked up their second victory as a team this weekend 6-5, moving their team record to 4-1.
“[Bedon and Karina] complement each other and work as a doubles team instead of two singles players,” Girsang said. “[Bedon’s] been playing well and has been moving up in the lineup. It’s great to see she has more confidence on the court. It’s pleasing to see what we worked on in practice and that she’s been able to implement it this tournament.”
Despite winning one match in doubles, Temple rebounded and split its six singles matches against Syracuse after losing two of its three doubles matches against the Orange yesterday.
Abdurakhimova picked up her first win of the weekend with a straight sets victory against Gabriele Knutson 6-4, 6-2. Junior Dina Karina grabbed her first of what would be two wins of the day, with a three-set 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory against Nicole Mitchell. Okajima won her first match of the weekend, dropping one game in 12 sets in a 6-1, 6-0 win against Syracuse’s Olivia Messimeo.
“[Karina] played well today and responded very well,” Girsang said. “Yesterday we had to talk with [Karina] and the whole team on strategies for the next day and some of the girls did what they were asked to do. It showed in [Karina’s] result today.”
At second singles, Khon fell in straight sets 7-6, 6-0, while Nussaume and Bedon also dropped their matches in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3, and 6-3, 6-1, respectively.
“We’re happy with the split in singles today and hoping that we can play them for the following year,” Girsang said. “Syracuse is always a tough team and motivated and pumped for every match.”
The team is without Monet-Stuckey Willis, who played second singles and rotated between second and third doubles last year. The Philadelphia native sustained a spinal injury during the preseason and has yet to return to the lineup.
“Obviously it’s hurting us,” Girsang said. “She plays a big part in our lineup. But I’m positive if we work on some things in doubles and see what we can do with this new combination it can work for us for the future. Hopefully Monet will be able to recover and get through her rehab and play for us soon when she is healthy.”
The Owls will conclude their final day Sunday against the University of Pennsylvania in singles.
Mark McCormick can be reached at email@example.com