Women's tennis' comeback bid falls short in 5-4 loss to regionally-ranked Merrimack

COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College women's tennis team's rally during singles fell short in a 5-4 loss to regionally-ranked Merrimack College on Thursday in the Tarrant Recreation Center. The Purple Knights slipped to 5-6 overall and 3-2 in the Northeast-10 Conference, while the Warriors moved to 9-3 and 8-0 as one of three teams remaining with a perfect league mark. Merrimack is seventh in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) East Region poll.

Saint Michael's won two of three doubles matches to take a 2-1 edge into singles, as Merrimack entered the day having lost only one NE-10 doubles match in 21 decisions this school year. Junior Kayla Dowd (Longmeadow, Mass./Longmeadow) and first-year Nicole Kellogg (Burnt Hills, N.Y./Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) trailed 2-1 at No. 3 before rallying for a 4-3 lead and ultimately pulling away with an 8-4 triumph against a tandem that had been 6-0 in NE-10 play this season. At No. 1, junior captains Caroline Martin (Scituate, Mass./Scituate) and Caroline Toutoungi (Weston, Conn./Weston) trailed just 2-1 before falling to the fifth-ranked doubles tandem in the region, 8-3.

With the match knotted at one, sophomores Erica Bundrick (Mattituck, N.Y./Mattituck) and Alexandra Sulkin (Ipswich, Mass./Ipswich) trailed 4-1 versus the region's eighth-ranked duo before winning the next four games to pull in front. After dropping the next two to fall behind 6-5, the Purple Knight tandem went up 7-6 but trailed 30-0 during the next game. However, Bundrick served the team to five of the final six points, capping the 8-6 comeback victory against a pair that had been a perfect 6-0 during league action.

Merrimack won the first two singles matches that were completed to take a slim advantage, and Bundrick led 3-2 during her opening set at No. 1 before coming up short, 6-4, 6-2, against the 18th-ranked player in the region to allow the visitors go ahead 4-2. Kellogg trailed just 4-3 in her first set at No. 2, an eventual 6-3 loss, and led 4-3 in the second set before yielding the final three games, as the Warriors clinched the team victory with that 6-3, 6-4 triumph.

Junior Hannah Benoit (Mystic, Conn./Saint Bernard School) blanked her opponent in the sixth position, and Sulkin earned a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 5 over a player who had been 7-0 in NE-10 singles action this school year.

The Purple Knights host regionally-ranked Southern New Hampshire University on Monday at 3 p.m. The Penmen, who have qualified for the past five NCAA Tournaments, are eighth in the ITA East Region poll.