Panther Women to Make a Racket on the Courts this Season


Photo by Nathan Girardi

Gabby Mendoza, junior, won both her singles and doubles matches against Peace.

Jazmin Scarberry

The women’s tennis team began their season two weeks ago at the Burrows-Skeens Tennis Court against William Peace University. The Panthers earned the win, beating the Pacers 6-3.

In the singles competition, Panther Morgan Hundley, junior, won against Peace’s Mya Sampson with 2-6, 6-3, 1-0, (10-2). Emily Mahood, freshman, also received a victory in the singles over Abbia Papale with 6-2, 6-3. In the doubles matches, Hundley and Mahood received another win against their opponents with an 8-5 score. 

“Junior Morgan Hundley and her doubles partner freshman, Emily Mahood…had huge singles and doubles wins in our victory over Peace,” said Rod Baker, Head Coach.

With the rest of their season ahead of them, this gave the women’s team a positive start to the spring competitions. Last season, the team finished with an overall record of 5-12 and a .294 PCT. The Panthers were 0-7 for home matches, 3-5 for away, and 2-0 neutral. 

Last year, the team also had six members named to the 2021-2022 ODAC All-Academic Team, Eseme Atkinson, transferred; Hundley, junior;  Emma Loughrey, senior;  Megan Scott, graduated;  Madison Wright, graduated, and Chelsea Zizzi, graduated. These students all maintained at least a 3.25-grade point average for the academic year.

Rod Baker, Head Coach, has been in charge of the tennis teams since October 2014. His teams appear to have a very tight bond.

“Last season ladies had a blast. Extremely fun away trips! It was a close-knit team that always supported one another. No matter their differences, truly accepting humans,” Coach Baker said.   

Up until last spring, Baker coached Zizzi, who went on to get her master’s degree in South Carolina. Zizzi left an impact on the team with her bright energy and leadership skills.

“We are missing Chelsea Zizzi.  It is very hard to replace that talent and leadership,” Baker said.

Loughrey, senior and four-year collegiate tennis player, is competing in her last season this spring for the Panthers and Coach Baker.  Loughrey has been a member of Coach Baker’s team since she was introduced by Zizzi. 

She is the one who introduced the coach to me because he was trying to reach out to me when I submitted my application, but I kept on ignoring his calls. When I told her that I was interested in playing tennis, she immediately perked up and called the coach telling him I was the “Florida girl” he was trying to get a hold of. If it was not for her, I would not have met the people I have met, and played with as a collegiate athlete,” claimed Loughrey.

She said Baker has been a mentor to her even off of the court.

“He helped me when I kept stressing about my grades, even though I was passing. He sat me down when we had a match one day and gave me advice on how to block out my negative thoughts of the people that have been harping on me about grades. Ever since then, I have gotten A’s and B’s throughout the semesters,” Loughery commented.

Tennessee Phillips, another senior on the team, is also playing in her final competitions this season. According to her, this will be her last time with a racket as well.

“I do not think I will continue to play,” stated Phillips, “I have been playing for about 12 years.”

With this much experience, Phillips has been able to eye her competition for her final season.

“We have a lot of teams that are difficult to play, but I would have to say that Virginia Wesleyan would be the most difficult,” she explained.

The Virginia Wesleyan University Women’s tennis team has competed in two matches this season, earning one win under their belt. With the rest of the season ahead, there is a lot of competition yet to be seen.

The next match for the Panthers will be on March 17, the weekend after students return from spring break. The ladies will return to the courts at 3 p.m. against Bridgewater College at Mapp-Whitelow Tennis Courts in Bridgewater, VA.