Column: GVSU tennis will win the GLIAC
Lakers have gone from underdog to favorite in a flash in 2015
GVL / Emily Frye Sophomore Aimee Moccia makes a hard hit against Saginaw Valley State University on Sat. Sep. 12th.
Six down, six to go.
Grand Valley State’s women’s tennis team is undefeated through six matches this year, and sits atop the GLIAC as the only unbeaten team left in the conference.
At the beginning of the year, defending champion Wayne State and top contender Northwood were considered the favorites for the GLIAC title.
That notion has since changed. After beating both of those teams handily, GVSU has established itself as a legitimate contender.
Bear with me, but I’m going to go the extra mile. As it stands right now, GVSU is the favorite to win the GLIAC.
With five sophomores and six freshmen, am I looking too far ahead? Maybe. But why not?
The only real tests left remaining on GVSU’s schedule are Tiffin (5-2, 4-2 GLIAC) this Saturday, and Ferris State (4-2, 4-2 GLIAC) on Oct. 15, the regular season finale.
GVSU also has Findlay, Walsh and Ashland remaining on the schedule, but those teams have a combined 5-13 record. Barring an upset, the Lakers should be able to handle these teams.
Tiffin and Ferris State have one thing in common – they both lost to Northwood and Wayne State. Tiffin lost both matches 5-4, while Ferris got handled by Northwood 7-2 and Wayne State 6-3.
By comparison, GVSU beat Northwood 6-3 and Wayne State 7-2 in consecutive weekends - representing the only losses on the year for both teams. Those weren’t exactly close games against the GLIAC heavyweights.
Still not convinced? Not counting the GVSU loss, Northwood has defeated its five other opponents this year by a combined score of 39-6. As for Wayne State? The Warriors have won by a combined score of 38-7.
In a world of far too many predictions, here’s mine: GVSU will win out the regular season and march into the conference tournament unbeaten. An upset is always possible, but unlikely. The only other loss for Northwood or Wayne State is going to be when the two teams square off on Oct. 13 for a neutral-site match.
The GLIAC is top-heavy this year, as seven of the twelve teams are .500 or below. Four teams (Ashland, Michigan Tech, Lake Superior State and Findlay) have two wins or fewer.
For my prediction to hold true, GVSU needs to keep on its current pace.
I think it will. The Lakers depth has been unrivaled this year. The Lakers are a combined 30-6 in singles sets, and a combined 14-4 in doubles sets on the year.
Doubles, the biggest question mark heading into the year, has become a strength of this team. The No. 1 (Aimee Moccia and Rachel Sumner) and No. 2 seed (Alexa Sweeney and Madison Ballard) are both 4-2 in conference, and the No. 3 seed pairing of Abby Perkins and Livia Christman is undefeated.
What’s become apparent in singles is the Nos. 1 though 3 seeds are interchangeable with the Nos. 4 through 6 seeds. The same goes for doubles. The Lakers have two singles players who are undefeated on tour (Nicole Heiniger and Katarina Samardzija, both 7-0) that haven’t even cracked the lineup in GLIAC play.
There’s not a wide gap in ability from No. 1 seed Perkins to the eleventh player on the roster.
With that said, I want to see how the Lakers handle the second half of the year. The grind of an entire season can take a toll on any team, no matter how much depth it may have. With six regular season games, another tour invitational and the GLIAC tournament, this is far from a finished book.
Although GVSU beat the two schools soundly, Northwood and Wayne State will be no slouch come tourney time. GVSU is bound to face at least one of them, and the Lakers will need to bring their best.
Will GVSU stay hot and blaze through the rest of the year? Unfortunately, my limited command of tennis knowledge does not allow me to tell the future, and I don’t have a crystal ball in my possession.
But I can tell you this: GVSU is for real. The underdog narrative before the season has since been sent through the paper shredder. It’s ultimately going to come down to GVSU, Wayne State and Northwood. Whoever is having the best day or gets enough calls their way is going to walk away with a title.
The GLIAC tournament takes place Oct. 23 through Oct. 25. Last season, the Lakers finished as runners-up and came a tiebreaker set away from their first GLIAC championship in school history. If that team can get that far, there’s no reason to believe this team can’t do better.
It’s time for the Lakers to take the next step.