Knafo '19 pulls back, ready to strike the ball in 2018. Photo Courtesy of Muhlenberg Athletics

Muhlenberg women’s tennis embarked on their spring break trip to Florida and began their play on March 2 in the Lake Nona area against the Alvernia University Golden Wolves. The Mar. 2 start date marked the beginning of a rigid schedule as the Mules were forced to go up against three schools in as many days. The highly talented Muhlenberg squad, in those three days, took on Alvernia University, a Division-II program in Seton Hill University, and the St. Francis Fighting Saints. Following those action packed days of play, the group had some time to soak up some sun with a few days off. However, no time was wasted for on March 16, they, once again on campus, went right back to the courts.

As they commenced their highly anticipated trip down south, the Mules were tasked with opening up to formidable opponents in Alvernia and Seton Hill. While those matches didn’t go in their favor, Shelby Knafo ‘19 reflected on the challenges the team faced as well as the remarkable competitive nature of her squad. “Seton Hill being the Division-II program it is and with that offering scholarships for players to come, we knew the competition was going to be on a different level, but we still played strongly and kept up during the games.” When reflecting on their eventual victory versus the Fighting Saints, Knafo once again commended the entire team for their endless amounts of hard work. “We had all been practicing and working very hard, so it was nice to have the outcome of the match portray that.”

On the men’s side, they picked up their first win of the trip with an all-around effort downing the Monmouth Fighting Scots 9-0. Then, following a rain out against Christian Brothers, the group returned to the court and grabbed a second straight victory in matchup with a Division-II program in Saint Anselm. Lucas Bueno ‘22, a key contributor to the Mules’ success that day, explained how he and the team were able to find success. “I believe whenever the team feels happy to play and has fun on the court is when we play our best tennis, and that what the team was able to do that day. For me personally, however, it’s mainly about how I feel on the court regarding my timing on the ball and movement. If those two things come naturally during a match I start going through the motions and play at my best. The key to our victory was maintaining an aggressive game plan throughout the matches and going for our shots.”

In first time hitting the court since their spring break adventure, both the teams squared off with the Colonels of Wilkes University. Wilkes, being a team that has competed for their conference championship 12 years consecutively, the Mules came in ready to take on whatever was hit their way.

Although the weather conditions posed a tough playing environment, both Bueno and Knafo were happy with their overall play. “I believe that we played a good match and overall against Wilkes even with the tough conditions,” said Bueno. Knafo acknowledged that, “We went into this match knowing it was going to be difficult, but given the circumstances we are proud of the way we played.”

Muhlenberg tennis may have barriers to overcome, Knafo completely understands that, “Tennis is very much a process; you can play only so good on a particular day.” She also understands that Coach Jason Toedter has been a crucial aspect of that process and has been invaluable to the program. “Coach has been nothing but supportive and is always motivating us as well as helping us in reaching our highest potential as players,” said Knafo.


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