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Young tennis team falls short in finals

Without the veteran leadership from years past, the women’s tennis team was originally considered an underdog to defend their two-straight conference titles. But entering the NAC Championships with a record of 6-6, the Spartans had put themselves in position to contend for the conference crown once again.

This year’s championships were held on the Leicester, Mass. campus of Becker College, where Becker, Bay Path College and Johnson State all looked to unseat them as this season’s champions.

At the end of the first day of competition, Castleton was in the driver’s seat and had a lead going into the NAC Finals. Lauren Kuenzel, Emily Hallett, Meg Kuczynski and Charla Klass each won their first singles match, while the duos of Klass and Hallett and Kuczynski and Mallory Wilson advanced in the doubles competition.

“The team was simply tenacious in the semis,” said head coach Paul Cohen. “I could not have been more pleased with the way we played that day. Unfortunately, it seemed like we used up most of our energy in the semis.”

Castleton struggled during the tournament’s final day and suffered defeat in five out of six singles matches. Team captain Jamie Olson was the lone singles victor of the day, winning a consolation match over Jackie Souza of Bay Path.

Kuczynski and Wilson lost in their doubles final, but the team of Klass and Hallett were victorious in a dramatic match against a pair of Bay Path players, giving Castleton its only flight champions of the tournament.

The Lady Spartans finished the NAC Championships in third place, ending their reign of consecutive conference titles.

“I was most proud of the team for putting us in a serious position to win,” Cohen said. “We have now set the bar at a high level and have something to strive for next year.”

Cohen, in his 15th season with Castleton, was unsure exactly what to expect from a young and inexperienced team.

“To be honest, my expectations were temperate, but hopeful,” he said. “Once I noticed that our players provided a very good nucleus, I knew we could do some damage.”

The team had lost its senior leadership from last year’s championship squad, and two seniors who were supposed to play this season chose to pursue other commitments.

Although they lacked a core of veteran players, the women’s team made up for it with their intensity and hard-hitting style of play.

“This was a very exciting season for me,” Cohen said. “I got a lot out of it on a challenge standpoint, and I believe the same could be said for the team. We will come back even stronger next year.