Women’s Tennis Captures LEC Championship Due to Individual Triumphs

By Leslie Crofton, Sports Information Intern

The Rhode Island College women’s tennis team captured its second Little East Conference title in the past three years on the weekend of Oct. 13 and 14. The 2001 LEC Championship victory is RIC tennis coach Dick Ernst’s fourth women’s title. Ernst won previously in 1994, 1995 and 1999. The most current win was a real team effort, highlighted by many outstanding individual performances.

RIC produced several individual conference champions as well as taking the team title. The 2001 LEC Conference Champions are Carminda Rocha (East Providence, RI) at number two singles, Samantha Hedden (Rumford, RI) at number four singles, Meghan Mooney (North Scituate, RI) at number five singles, and the team of Mooney and Donna Vongratsavay (North Providence, RI) at number two doubles.

Rocha, a junior, has been a LEC Champion every year that she has been playing on the RIC squad, this being her third title to date. She won at number four singles in 1999 and 2000 before stepping things up this season to win at the number two position. "I felt confident going into the weekend but I also felt a lot of pressure," says Rocha. "Just because you have a good season doesn’t mean you’ll do well in the championships."

Rocha’s win is even more impressive considering she was plagued by nagging leg cramps during the championship match. "I was in the second set, up 5-3, when I started to have massive leg spasms," says Rocha. "I tried to ignore the pain and push through to the end. I really think I won that match on guts alone. She was a better player and I was in pain and exhausted." Ernst agrees, calling Rocha’s play "a really gutsy performance. She is probably the smartest player in the whole conference when it comes to figuring out what it takes to beat an opponent, to analyze and carry out a strategy." Rocha is currently undefeated in singles play this season, posting a perfect 13-0 record.

Hedden, a sophomore, was "a real hero of the day," according to Ernst. Hedden went into the tournament unseeded at the fourth position, with a 6-8 singles record. Despite this, she won each of her matches in the first-round, the semi-finals and the finals. These points became crucial to the Anchorwomen’s team victory, as runner-up UMASS-Boston, the only LEC team who had beaten RIC in a dual match prior to the tournament, finished a mere two points behind them.

Mooney, a freshman, "clinched the championship with her win against UMASS-Boston in the finals match," says Ernst. "It’s very rare that a freshman can come through with such poise under so much pressure. Meghan made no mistakes and played with courage and discipline." Mooney is 12-1 in singles play so far this season. "I really wasn’t expecting to come in and do so well," says Mooney. "I’ve become more confident as the season has gone on. The team has been very supportive to me as a newcomer. It’s been a very enjoyable experience."

In addition to winning at number five singles, Mooney combined with teammate Donna Vongratsavay, a junior, to win the number two doubles title as well. Mooney and Vongratsavay were the only doubles champions on the squad, picking up key points for RIC.

The championships were "a wonderful experience for everybody" emphasizes Ernst. "We’ll have all but two players back next year so we have a good shot at making it two [LEC titles] in a row." RIC closes out the 2001 season at Clark University on Oct. 17 and at the New England Division III Championships on Oct. 20 and 21.


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