The College of Staten Island women’s tennis team put the finishing touches on their finest season under four-year head coach Paul Ricciardi on Sunday, powering through Brooklyn College, 6-3. With the win, the Dolphins finished 8-1 in CUNYAC play, meriting them the No. 2 seeding in the upcoming CUNYAC Postseason Tournament. The eight-team field will pit CSI against No. 7 Baruch College to start the quarterfinal round on Tuesday, October 19, in a match to be played at the CSI Tennis Center at 4pm. Semifinal and Final rounds will be played at the National Tennis Center on Friday and Saturday, weather permitting.
Closing out the season 11-5 overall, the Dolphins went relatively unscathed during the off-season, returning five of six starting positions from their 2009 campaign, one of the main reasons for their success. Planted at the No. 1 position has been Gabriella Villarruel. The senior leader and CUNYAC Player of the Year nominee played in every match this season, boasting 11-5 records in both singles and doubles, all in the No. 1 position.
Villarruel’s exploits have been punctuated by the improved play of fellow seniors Nancy Almazo, Qing Li and Yelena Rasporkaya. Almazo went 3-0 at the No. 4 Singles position, wile Li, fluctuating at No. 3 & No. 4, finished a crisp 9-5 overall. Rasporskaya, who returns to the Dolphins this season after appearing in only two matches a year ago went a blistering 10-2 in Singles this season, a mark that included an untouched, 9-0, record in conference play. The senior leadership is what had carried the team, according to their coach.
“I think everyone was so much more involved and invested this year,” said Ricciardi. “Players like Gabby really set the bar high this year, demanded more out of herself and it carried over.”
Alongside the veterans are sophomores Justine Kuna and Tara Colao, who have both elevated their games enough to make CSI stronger in the bottom of the lineup, where the most critical of points are often won. Kuna finished 9-4 at both the No. 5 & 6 Singles positions.
Nowhere are the Dolphins more improved, however, than at the No. 2 Singles flight, where newcomer Ilona Stoyko, a two-time CUNYAC Rookie of the Week has enjoyed a phenomenal initial season. Stoyko boasts an 11-5 overall record and an 8-1 mark in CUNYAC play, while also enjoying a 10-6 Doubles mark (7-2 in CUNYAC play). Stoyko’s insertion into the lineup has carried through, making the entire lineup stronger.
“Having someone at her position, allows us to move players one notch lower and makes our entire lineup stronger,” said Ricciardi.
All told, the Dolphins success has translated into a more positive campaign in 2010, and the Dolphins are now positioned for what could be a special run come tournament time. The run will need to start, however, with a quality effort against Baruch College,a perennial tennis power that finished 4-5 in the standings this year.
“They are a team you never want to draw come playoffs because they have a great winning pedigree,” said Ricciardi on the Baruch draw. “But nothing changes for us, we still have to play our best tennis to advance no matter who we play. We’re just going to try to go as far as we can and hopefully save our best tennis of the season for the postseason.”
In other quarterfinal action No. 1 Hunter College (8-1) will take on No. 8 CCNY (2-7), No. 3 York College (5-4) takes on No. 6 Brooklyn College (4-5), and No. 4 Lehman College (6-3) takes on No. 5 John Jay College (5-4). Should CSI advance, they would take on the York-Brooklyn winner on Friday afternoon at 4pm.