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Pivonka leads women’s tennis

The Dragons of Drexel Tennis kicked off their fall season at the Cissie Leary Invitational this past weekend, Sept. 24-25, and are jumping back into action Sept. 30 for the annual Saint Joseph’s Invitational tournament.

The women made a short trip over to the University of Pennsylvania’s campus to get their 2011 fall season underway. Last year at Cissie Leary, the ladies had only one player advance, with then-senior Gozde Unkaya and her victory over Penn’s Lauren Bridges. This year, the younger Dragons proved to be fierce competitors on the court.

Freshman and Florida native, Nicole Pivonka, put on an impressive show for Drexel as she participated in, and won, a heated first-round match. However, Pivonka fell short when she reached the round of 16 against one of Delaware’s top players, Kim Milla. According to DrexelDragons.com, Pivonka saved herself by rebounding from match point three times. What started as a close 7-5 set resulted in a 10-4 tiebreak victory for Pivonka.

Unfortunately, the freshman’s winning streak came to a halt when she faced off against Alexandra Ion of Penn. The final scores of the match were 6-1 and 6-3.

This weekend, the women will be returning to the courts, hoping for stronger results with equally fierce competition. Last year, five dragons dove into action at the SJU Invitational. Zeynep Mafa earned two impressive titles last year as she finished strong in both flight two of singles and doubles play with Sonja Stosic. This year, the ladies are planning to bring home even more coveted titles.

With three freshmen added to the roster this year, there aren’t any doubts about fresh energy and spirit that has been added to the bunch. Head coach Tricia Udicious has already talked about her confident plans for the Dragons this season in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Udicious has constantly proved her immense knowledge of the game after coaching at Drexel for the past eight seasons. However, with each new season come new players with different talents and techniques that she learns to work with and coach. She continued in stating that top talent was never an issue among the players entering the program. Furthermore, finding depth within the team has always been more challenging.

“This year, with the addition of four talented newcomers to our strong returning players, we have more depth and talent than ever before,“ Udicious said.

Although Cissie Leary did not deliver the highest results all had hoped for, the Dragons are passionate about striving for better results week after week. The women are steadily practicing on a rigorous schedule between classes and work, but they proved to come in prepared and ready after a two-month summer break.

Senior Sonja Stosic winds up for a forehand volley during a match at the Drexel Tennis Courts in the Vidas Athletic Complex. Last season, the Serbia native finished with a 15-5 overall record in singles play, while also teaming up with then-freshman Zeynep Mafa in doubles competition and posting a 15-6 record.
“Our players came into preseason highly motivated to be a stronger force in our region,” Udicious said. “After a somewhat disappointing showing at the Cissie Leary Tournament this past weekend, we are motivated to improve both mentally and physically with each upcoming match.”

Due to the addition of the freshmen to a roster of returning players, it is vital for the team to adopt a strong sense of chemistry and communication on and off the court. Even when players are competing individually on the court, it is important for them to be able to communicate constantly at practice to make each other stronger.

Udicious said that the team’s biggest strength this year is their commitment and intensity to push each other at practice. The leadership that the upperclassmen have shown has effectively meshed with the infusion of energy brought by the newcomers.

Even though the Dragons are able to communicate and perform with great talent from practice to practice, Udicious said there is still room for improvement on the courts. As a whole, she stated that the team still needed to work on being patiently aggressive in competition and waiting for the correct moment to clinch the final victory.

“We need to continue working on our patience in setting up points and going for the big shot when the opportunity is there,” Udicious said.

With Cissie Leary behind them and even more opportunities ahead for improvement, Udicious and her players are anxious to get back onto the courts to clinch some impactful wins.

The women will be competing in Philadelphia for this weekend-long event at neighboring St. Joe’s.