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ASU women's tennis returns to winning ways ahead of Pac-12 tournament

The Sun Devils look to close out the season on a six-match winning streak as they take on UA in their season finale


ASU women’s tennis team huddles before the start of a match against USC at Whiteman Tennis Center on Friday, April 7, 2023 in Tempe. ASU won 4-1.

In a season filled with injuries and a difficult schedule, the ASU women's tennis team employed a "next man up" attitude punctuated by a five-match winning streak. 

At 13-8, the No. 31 Sun Devils have bounced back from an 0-4 conference start to put themselves in fifth in the Pac-12 rankings. With their backs against the walls, ASU has played some of their best tennis of the season en route to dropping only two points in their last five matches. 

"We sort of had matches that we had to win, and we knew that," sophomore Chelsea Fontenel said. "I think we're sort of a team that is good at winning those that we need to."

The Sun Devils opened up conference play by dropping four straight games against Stanford, Cal, UCLA and USC, all top-11 teams in the country at this point in the season. However, the Sun Devils have been undefeated in the month since and have built major confidence during that stretch. 

"It's tricky because in the Pac-12 ... we've always had Stanford, Cal, USC, UCLA back to back to back, and right now those teams are all top 10, I think, in the country, and a lot of times you don't beat them," head coach Sheila McInerney said. 

To make matters worse, the toughest slate of games for the Sun Devils coincided with their first court singles player, Giulia Morlet, injuring her calf in a match against Baylor that kept her out for four weeks. 

Fontenel, who usually plays at no. 2, was forced up a spot. 

"It's always a bit more special to play one, so I definitely had some good matches there to learn from," Fontenel said. 

The Sun Devils had a tough couple of weeks, but the senior leadership was integral in spurring an increase in team belief and camaraderie. Sweeps against No. 25 Washington and No. 48 Utah were major confidence boosters for the squad. 

The senior trio of Morlet, Marianna Argyrokastriti and Rachel Hanford created a leadership group that brought the freshman along. Four years prior, they were the new kids in town feeling uncertain, and now they were in the position to answer any questions posed to them. 

"Each of us have a different leadership style; me it's more like leading by example," Morlet said. "It's tough to lose like four matches in a row ... But it brought us closer and we're all healthy enough to  be able to ... lift each other."

One area where the team improved over the year was in their doubles matches. Despite losing against Stanford and Cal, the Sun Devils won the doubles point in both matches with key players out, showcasing their depth. 

"We've won a lot of doubles points, which has been a little bit of a surprise to me, not that our doubles isn't good, but it's hard to win as many doubles points against good teams as we have," McInerney said.

ASU's regular season concludes Saturday with a rivalry matchup against Arizona, a day where they also celebrate the seniors who will be graduating. 

It's difficult to keep emotions away from the matchups, but the team is completely focused on the task at hand. 

"It's just another day on the court. Another match to play," Morlet said. "I feel like I have enough experience now to not let my emotions get in the way."

Following this matchup, ASU will travel to Ojai, California, for the Pac-12 Tournament, which begins next Wednesday. 

The Sun Devils will not qualify for a first-round bye, and McInerney said they "really haven't looked to the Pac-12 yet."

Edited by Shane Brennan, Alfred Smith III and Angelina Steel. 

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