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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Tennis ends fall with strong effort

The women’s tennis team headed to Western Michigan University last weekend looking to conclude the fall season in style. They were one of eight teams in the Mid-American Conference to compete in the MAC Indoor Championships.

The trio of junior Alyson Gabel, sophomore Jessica Johnson, and freshman Laura Kokinda helped ignite a young team by coming out on top in some important matches early in the tournament.

Gabel competed in the second flight of singles play, and came up with a victory in her first-round match, before succumbing to her next opponent. Afterward, Johnson and Kokinda took to the forefront by defeating some of the toughest opponents in the tournament.

Kokinda defeated Courtney Brenkus of Akron in three sets and Johnson rebounded from a first-round loss to win her next match and advance to the back-draw final before losing.

Even though the three Falcons were unable to capture any individual titles, their success early on would prove to give the team momentum and spark the play of another sophomore.

After dropping her opening match at the third singles flight, Lisa Maloney showed her relentlessness by winning her next two contests. She concluded her singles play by easing out a difficult victory over Catherine Dilley of Miami University, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 in the championship of the back draw.

Maloney’s play showed the depth that the women’s tennis team is beginning to gain. She is one of many Falcons who have led the team throughout the fall season. The success she had may have surprised some of her opponents, but was long overdue in her mind.

“It’s been an inconsistent year for me, but I just tried to go out there and get in a groove,” Maloney said. “Once I settled down, I knew I would begin playing the way I should have been prior to the championships.”

BG’s singles play showed much improvement in the tournament, but their doubles teams was equally impressive, if not better.

The top flight of doubles play saw Maloney teaming with lone senior, Devon Bissinger. The team took an impressive victory over Akron, 8-4 before losing to the eventual flight champions from Western Michigan. Freshman Susan Schoenberger and Gabel lost two close matches to Ball State and Toledo.

At the third flight, Kokinda and Johnson lost their first matches; however they defeated Akron 8-3 before losing to Northern Illinois in the back-draw final, 8-4. The fourth doubles team consisted of freshmen Lindsey Mix and Cameron Benjamin, but the inexperience was a non-factor in the first match. The duo defeated Northern Illinois, 8-5, but lost to Eastern Michigan in the finals of the front draw, 8-2.

Each match required the Falcons to show persistence. Many players were forced to bounce back from tough losses. Coach Penny Dean said she felt the team’s consistency improved with the competitiveness of the tournament.

“I felt we did all right in various aspects of our game, as we have done throughout previous matches,” Dean said. “I was especially proud of the way each of the players bounced back in their matches.”

The key to the first half of the season for the women’s tennis team has been the way they have improved with each match. Dean felt many players have made big strides since the beginning of the season, but felt freshman Laura Kokinda and sophomore Jessica Johnson stood out among the other players.

“I feel that everyone has improved throughout the season, but Laura improved a lot and Jessica has improved a lot from last season,” Dean said. “She has improved her strength and learned how to manage her points, and that has made her a much dangerous player.”

“I’ve just tried to come out and give 100 percent in each practice and every match,” Johnson said.

Dean must now find a way to keep her team fresh and focused. The Falcons return to action Jan. 20 with a duel match against Indiana University. Dean feels the team concluded the season on a positive note, and will use their time off well.

“This was great experience because we are so young and it gave us a chance to see what MAC competition will be like next year,” Dean said. “We have a lot to improve on, but the players will have this week off and return to their regular schedule next week.”

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