With three returning sophomores and four new players ready to don the green and white, the Seward County Lady Saints Tennis team kicked off their 2010-2011 season last Friday in Oklahoma City and put up a good showing against some of the best players from around the region. The Lady Saints finished with 12 wins including four singles players reaching the semifinals or consolation semifinals or deeper and all three doubles teams accomplishing the same feat. On the day Seward ended up 6-10 in singles action and 6-4 in doubles.


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The Lady Saints placed a pair of players in the #1 singles bracket as Dariya Dashutina and 2010 NJCAA Freshman of the Year Fanny Benincasa started play on the opposite side of the draw from each other. Dashutina first matched up with Lisa Olian from Dallas Baptist University and quickly advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 6-2 win. Her second match came against Calia Respaut, the 3rd seeded player in the bracket from Seminole State. Dashutina and Respaut went back and forth through the first set and the Trojans Respaut narrowly came out ahead 7-6 in a tiebreak. In the second set, Dashutina again played the eventual tournament champion close but fell 6-3 to end her tournament in 5th place. On the other side of the bracket, Benincasa dropped her first match to Faiga Schmidt of Southwest Baptist 6-2, 7-5 but then came back in the consolation bracket to win her first match there 8-2 over Elly Johnson of Friends University. She then moved on to the second round where she received a bye which set up a match against Karla Martinez of New Mexico Military in the semis. Benincasa and Martinez played a close match, going back and forth to the end but Martinez would just edge out Benincasa at the end as she came away with an 8-6 victory.

Marcela Abrantes was the Lady Saints representative in #4 singles play and would drop her first match of the day 6-4, 6-1 to Melissa Reynolds of Oklahoma Wesleyan in the first round. She wouldn’t let it get her down though as she fought back in the consolation bracket to reach the final after an 8-3 win over Allison Gerber of Newman University in the first round and then an 8-4 decision over Diana Barns of Oklahoma Baptist in the semis. In the finals she would be pitted against Alyssa Hawkins of New Mexico Military and would play maybe the best match of the day as it took 5 tie break sets to determine it before Hawkins came out the victor 9-8 (2) to win the championship.

In #5 singles it was Lindy Kowalchuk that drew the call and she would play a drawn out first round match against Jessica Evans of Cowley that she would come out on top of 7-6, 3-6, 6-1 to advance to the round of eight. In the second round Kowalchuk squared off with 2nd seeded Samantha Haight of North Central Texas and Haight was dominate, winning 6-0, 6-0 to put Kowalchuk 5th for the tournament.

Seward’s #3 player Kauana Goncalves played the OKC Open in the #2 singles bracket and after falling 6-0, 6-1 to Elise Burnett-Godfree, turned things around with a 3rd place finish in the consolation bracket after a loss to 3rd seeded Hannah Innes in the semis 8-5.

Caitlin Workman, another Lady Saint playing in her first collegiate action of her career finished 5th in the #6 singles bracket after picking up an upset victory over 3rd seeded Amber Evans of Collin County before falling to Anna Le of Newman University in the quarters 6-1, 6-1.

In #3 singles play, Salitza Abrantes represented the Lady Saints and went up against a tough draw, as she was matched with 2nd seeded Natalie Friend from Abilene Christian in the first round where she lost 6-0, 6-0 and then against Mariana Rosa of Oklahoma Baptist in the first round of the consolation bracket where she lost 8-1 to end her day.

In doubles play, the Lady Saints top two players in Dashutina and Benincasa teamed up to make what should be expected to be one of the top doubles teams in the country this season. The pair took care of Zinnia Leamana and Kelsey Rebin of Collin County 8-4 and upset the 3rd seeded team in the bracket Hannah Kelley and Cassie Carver of Abilene Christian 8-6 to move to the semifinals. In the semis the two ran up against Lilian Fereirra and Paola Costa who were open entrants into the tournament and fell 8-4 to end their tournament in 3rd place.

In #2 doubles action Abrantes and Goncalves paired to take on Micah Hermsdorf and Madelyn Walker of Abilene Christian University where they fell 8-2 to send them to the consolation bracket. In the consolation bracket however, the duo put on a show, defeating Katie Metcalf and Amber Owens of Collin County in the first round 8-5 and then receiving a bye to get to the round of four. In the semis they found themselves across the net from Emily Jones and Ashley Dunham and dropped the pair from Newman University 8-5 to march on to the title match. In the championship match they went up against Alyssa Hawkins and Adalyn Hazelman of New Mexico Military who had won their previous three matches 8-0, 8-0, and 8-0 to reach the finals. The Seward County duo of Abrantes and Goncalves weren’t about to let that happen to them though as they raced out to an early lead before closing the door 8-6 to win the championship.

The feel good story of the day came in the #3 doubles bracket for Seward County as Kowalchuk and Abrantes paired on the bottom half of the bracket and Workman teamed up with Erica Pope of Seminole State to form a team on the top half of the draw. Workman and Pope got together as a result of both Seward and Seminole having an odd number of players at the tournament and therefore didn’t have their normal doubles partner there to play with them. Never having played together the pair played extremely well as they lost a nail biter in the first round to Katie Klausmey and Anna Le of Newman University 8-6 and then fell 8-1 against the 4th seeded team of Jess Cossari and Monica Lunardi of North Central Texas in the first round of the consolation bracket in their final match. Kowalchuk and Abrantes played one of the closest matches of the day in their first round matchup with Selby Cornejo and Jessica Evans of Cowley as the teams went back and forth for 17 sets before the Tiger pair of Evans and Cornejo eventually came out the victors of a 9-8 decision. In the consolation bracket Kowalchuk and Abrantes were given a win in the first round over 2nd seeded Collin County when Regan Perme and Fernanada Estrauzalus were stopped from continuing with an injury and then got the second round off with a bye to move to the semis. In the semifinal round the Lady Saints went up against 3rd seeded Samantha Dunn and Bailey Martinez of New Mexico Military and found themselves on the wrong end of an 8-3 score to finish them in 3rd place in the consolation bracket.