The Duquesne women’s tennis team extended its impressive start to 7-1 by defeating nearby Carnegie Mellon 4-3 last Friday evening, while the men’s side suffered a 6-1 loss to Binghamton, putting them back at the .500 mark (4-4).
The women’s team has now won four consecutive matches and is led by a pair of outstanding underclassmen, sophomore Kylie Isaacs and freshman Julianne Herman.
“I think all the time we put in on the court practicing and the effort we put in working out and in the gym has really helped us,” Isaacs said. “Our team cohesiveness both on and off the court allows us to really function well as a unit this year.”
Fresh off being named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Week, Isaacs dominated CMU’s Brooke Tsu, winning in two straight sets, 6-1 and 6-0. Isaacs was a First Team A-10 performer last season, tying the school’s single season record with 45 wins. She also won 79 percent of her singles matches and 68 percent of her doubles matches in 2015.
“Kylie is the type of player that gives 100 percent every time she steps on the court,” women’s assistant coach Vanessa Steiner said. “She is very intense and focused during practices and makes everyone else more focused. She always has a smile on her face, though, so she is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and is very humble, which motivates the other girls to work harder.”
Teammate Julianne Herman edged out Nicholle Torres in three sets, 6-1, 6-7 (4-7), and 6-3 after being named A-10 Co-Rookie of the Week for the third time in 2016.
“Kylie and Julianne are amazing,” head coach Rob Gregoire said. “They make their coaches look like geniuses. They have unbelievable maturity and incredible determination. They are also wonderful teammates and their attitude is contagious.”
Junior Megan Wasson and sophomore Ally Miller also won, giving the Dukes four singles points. The lone doubles victory for Duquesne came from the Isaacs and Herman tandem.
On the men’s side, senior Harry Walshe picked up the sole point, winning his singles match in straight sets 6-3 and 7-5. However, the Dukes’ lost their top five singles matches and all three doubles contests to Binghamton.
“We went into that match kind of knowing we were the underdogs,” senior Corey Robinson said. “We went in expecting to fight, and I was really proud of everyone and how they competed against such a strong team.”
Robinson won the first set against Binghamton’s Sid Hazarika 6-2, but dropped the final two sets 5-7 and 3-6. Robinson leads a very young team composed of eight underclassmen with only him and Walshe as upperclassmen.
“The men are very young but resilient,” Gregoire said. “They understand the process and are loaded with talent. They are close- knit and will be playing their best tennis going into April.”
The Dukes will all be traveling together for an East Coast trip over spring break where the women will take on South Carolina State and Towson, and the men will square off against South Carolina State and Charlotte.
It is a chance to further their camaraderie and ensure that they keep up their strong play even though they were dealt tough news that their beloved head coach is taking an opportunity elsewhere.
“We’re all happy for Rob taking a good opportunity up in Buffalo,” men’s assistant coach Pete Carpenter said. “But we are definitely sad to see him go, and he has done nothing but great things for the program.”
Carpenter and Steiner will take over each of their respective programs to finish what Gregoire started.
“My players are now 23 of my adopted children,” Gregoire said. “Pete and Vanessa are like a younger brother and sister to me. This is such a special group of people and [it’s] excruciating to walk away from.”
Isaacs, Robinson, Steiner and Carpenter all wished Gregoire the very best with his new opportunity and expressed how much he meant to this program along with how much he will be missed.
“I want them to know how proud I am of them,” Gregoire said. “I want them to know that they have made me a better human being. I want them to believe they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.”