DES MOINES, IOWA – Starting off the year with a bang, the UW-Milwaukee women’s tennis team found their footing right from the gate, competing at the Roger Knapp Tennis Invite over the past weekend, hosted by Drake University.
During the first day of action, the team racked up 10 wins across many flights of competition.
In the “B” flight, newcomer Labina Petrovska started her Panther career in style, cruising to her first win with a straight set 6-1, 6-1 win over Hylan Miller of Omaha.
Also in that flight was senior Dana Shannon, who wasn’t able to rush to her victory like Petrovska. Shannon was able to claim the win, but not after a back and forth struggle with Kylie Boyer, also from Omaha. Shannon took the three set win, 7-5, 0-6, 6-4.
Participating in the “C” flight, Milwaukee got things off just as positively. With a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win, freshman Laurie Clark was able to start off her collegiate career with a victory. Junior Alysa Straub, also in her first play of the season, rushed to a 6-0, 6-1 win.
Battling to earn her first victory of the season, junior Aerielle Pendleton had to overcome a second set loss to outlast her opponent, Natalie Grieve from Cardinal Stritch, taking the win 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Pendleton also claimed her second round match in an equally close match, again dropping the second set. Beating conference rival Samm Pederson from Green Bay, Pendleton took the match 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals of the “D” flight.
Freshman Masha Lobanova was also able to claim a win in her first collegiate match, convincingly defeating Patricia Greif of Cardinal Stitch with a 6-0, 6-1 victory.
Doubles also produced several wins for the Panthers.
Shannon and Lobanova paired up to take their opening match 6-3 against a Creighton duo. Shannon and Lobanova then competed against the top duo from Northern Illinois, falling 4-6.
Straub and Clark also claimed a straightforward 6-2 win over their North Dakota opponents in the consolation bracket after dropping their opening match 3-6 to Northern Illinois.
Pendleton paired up with Noel Peck of Green Bay for their first round win, 6-4 over Nebraska-Omaha to head into the semifinals of their flight.
Day Two – Saturday
Returning on Saturday to continue play, Milwaukee retained their high level of play from the day before, claiming nine more wins.
Clark started the day off, as the freshman took of the top seeded Abbey Dekkinga of Northern Illinois. Clark came back from losing the first set to claim the victory, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the semifinals of flight “C,” where she was set to face off against teammate Straub, who had ran through the second set of her match, winning 7-6, 6-1.
Straub unfortunately had to withdraw from the match, handing Clark a place in the championship match.
Pendleton continued her form from Friday as she claimed two more wins on Saturday. She took down her first opponent, from Creighton University, winning another three set match 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. In the semifinal match, Pendleton defeated Jitsupa Sirinit from Cardinal Stitch, who had taken down the No. 1 seed earlier in the day, again in a three-setter. Pendleton came back from dropping the first set to win 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-2, earning herself a spot in the championship match of flight “D.”
Petrovska, a transfer student from Western Michigan University, continued the high quality play from the Panthers. Petrovska was the second player from Milwaukee to take out a No. 1 seed, defeating Gisela Kemper of Northern Illinois in a close three-setter, eventually taking the win 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3.
Petrovska wasn’t able to replicate the form of that victory, dropping her next match, 6-3, 6-3 against South Dakota’s Emma Kranendonk.
Competing the consolation bracket for flight “A,” junior Hayley Marshall put together a first round win over conference rival Stephanie Londre of Green Bay, before falling in straight sets to Yuliya Sidenko of South Dakota 6-3, 6-3.
In doubles, the Panthers continued to play well. Straub and Clark cruised their way to the final of the “A” flight consolation finals with a 6-1 win over Creighton’s top team.
Pendleton advanced to the final of the “C” flight with her partner from Green Bay, taking their match 6-4, and will face the top seeded team from Northern Colorado in the final.
Day Three – Sunday
The Panthers claimed several trophies to cap off a stellar weekend.
Pendleton and Clark both finished runner-ups in their respective flights.
“It was a very successful first tournament – probably the best we have ever had,” Milwaukee head coach Maddy Soule said. “As a coach, you always expect and hope for good results, but realistically at the first tournament it’s not always pretty. We looked like we had a lot of experience and practice under our belts, but we’ve actually only been going for about a week. The incoming freshmen didn’t show any nerves or pressure and did exceptionally well.”
“The great dynamic of the team and the positive environment have been integral in our success so far.”
Pendleton tried to force her match into a third set, but fell in straight sets, 6-2, 7-6(3) to Elise van Zijst of South Dakota, taking second in the 32-player “D” flight.
Clark had a tougher time during her match in the “C” flight, and also fell in straight sets to Nebraska-Omaha’s Janelle Wilson 6-3, 6-1.
In addition to her singles runner-up, Pendleton had the chance to claim a doubles title as well, but fell in the final, 3-6 to the top duo from Northern Colorado.
Clark and Straub were able to claim the “A” flight consolation title with a hard-fought 7-6 win over a Creighton duo, who had beat Marshall and Petrovska in the first round.
Throughout the weekend, Milwaukee claimed an impressive 20 wins over the three-day tournament.
“This was a great start,” Soule said. “Labina (Petrovska) took fourth, which was very impressive given the high level of play in her draw. She had a huge win against a Northern Iowa player in the quarters.
“Our newcomers are very solid and I am excited for what is to come. I think we will be a force in the Horizon League as we continue to improve and compete.”
The Panthers will now rest for a week before heading to Minneapolis for the Gopher Invite starting Friday, Sept. 25.