By Michael Snavely
As the midpoint in the conference season approaches and playoff race heats up, the Macalester women’s tennis team buckles down. The Scots have turned their game up a notch recently, going on a six game winning streak last week, including a decisive 5-4 victory over the rival Royals from Bethel. Entering into the home stretch, Macalester needs to keep the conference wins coming to keep their playoff hopes alive.Here’s a breakdown on how the matches work. Teams come in with a set lineup of doubles and singles teams, and the corresponding positions from each school play each other, so that your best player faces the other team’s best, and so on. A doubles match consists of a single set up to eight games. In a singles match, the first to win two sets of six games is the victor. The match scores are composed of three doubles matches and six singles, so that the scores add up to nine (an odd number avoids ties). In the victory over Bethel, the Scots were led by wins in the top four singles spots, as well as the No. 3 doubles team, Lucy Miner’ 12 and Maddie Vargo ’13 won 8-3.The Scots’ winning streak was broken on Sunday as the St. Ben’s Blazers took the match 7-2. The bright spots for Mac were wins at the three and four positions by Paige Schaefer ’13, who won 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3 and Abby Citrin ’11 who pulled out a 7-5, 6-7, 10-6 victory at No. 4.The Scots are led by two senior captains, Stephanie Lee ’10 and Amanda Wenzel ’10, who hold down the top two singles spots. Their experience will be an advantage in the closing weeks of the season, but the Scots will also count on continued success from underclassmen Schaefer and Citrin who are a combined 24-4 this spring.Another key to Macalester’s season was the spring trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where the Scots played five matches in as many days, and came out 4-1. Sophomore Miner attested to the success of the trip. “Hilton Head was a big help,” she said.”There was a lot of improvement and we came out ready for big matches back home.”The Scots are 9-5 overall and 1-4 in conference. Don’t read into this conference record too much, though, as two of loses came against Carleton and Gustavus, who are poised to finish one and two in conference. “We had a hard start having to play two of the top teams,” Miner said. “But we should be able to finish strong with the schedule we have left.” The girls have five matches remaining, all in conference, and need to climb three spots in the rankings in order to make the playoffs.The Scots had five games in the last week but are now off until they face St. Catherine on April 11. This gives the Scots two weeks to sharpen up their game and mentally prepare for playoff hunt. This break will also give the women a chance to rest, which a Wenzel will appreciate, as she has been battling a back and shoulder injury. The last chance to catch the Scots at home will be April 14 at 6:00 p.m., and the girls are hoping for support as they make the final push of the 2010 season. The Scots are getting hot at the right time, winning six of their last seven, and will be hard to stop as they close out the conference schedule.