by Tom Utescher

CHC senior number one Nastia Shcherbakova watches the flight of the ball as she follows through on a stroke. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Chestnut Hill College’s racquetwomen completed their regular-season conference campaign with a sweep of visiting Holy Family University last Thursday. The official final score of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference contest was 7-0, and the Griffins held the advantage in two other matches that were halted due to darkness.

CHC wound up with a 6-2 record in the CACC and improved to 8-2 overall, while the Tigers went home to Northeast Philly at 4-3, 6-4. After a close 4-5 loss in mid-September to powerful defending conference champ Concordia College of suburban New York, the Griffins hoped to run the table in their remaining CACC matches, but fell 1-8 to Wilmington’s Goldey-Beacom College at the end of last month.

With Concordia rebounding from its close scrape against Chestnut Hill to drub Goldey-Beacom, 8-1, the upcoming conference tournament promises to be an interesting wrangle. It will be one with a foreign accent, as well, since even in NCAA Division II many schools have a number of international players on their roster.

The entire match between Concordia and Goldey-Beacom featured a total of one U.S. player, and even last Wednesday’s meeting between CHC and Holy Family – two Philadelphia schools – included seven imports between the two squads.

Chestnut Hill’s own “Minsk Marauder,” senior Nastia Shcherbakova of Belarus, ground out a 7-5 win in her first set against Holy Family number one Juliana Victoria, a product of Ecuador. With daylight fading and Victoria vociferous about her inability to see the ball, Shcherbakova went out to a 5-0 lead in the second set before the match was called.

By that time the Griffins already had seven wins in the books (including three at doubles) and had clinched the team victory.

In the second singles tilt, CHC junior Kelly Dennis dispatched Russia’s Alina Nersesyan, 6-2, 6-0, and at number three Australian native Maria Parapouras, a senior who is one of the Griffins’ most successful players, produced a pair of 6-2 sets against Serbian Tiger Maja Pantelic.

The hosts’ sophomore number four, Morgan Oechsle, licked London’s Steicy Castro, in another 6-2, 6-2 match, and a pair of freshmen anchored the fifth and sixth spots for the Griffins. Moving up a notch from her usual position, Axé Owens played number five and sailed past HFU’s Casey Borish, 6-0, 6-1, and in a sixth singles bout that didn’t get underway until dusk was approaching, CHC’s Hayley Craskey took a 3-0 lead in games against visitor Jacqueline Clyne before their clash was called off.

In the doubles matches which started off the encounter, Shcherbakova and Dennis won, 8-5, in the first flight, while Parapouras and Oechsle coasted at second doubles, 8-2. At third doubles, Owens prevailed, 9-7, with the help of partner and classmate Iman Williams-Mulesa, who comes from Ontario, Canada.

Williams-Mulesa ordinarily plays fifth singles for CHC, but she was feeling a little under the weather on Wednesday, so for singles action Owens bumped up one spot and Craskey was called on to complete the line-up for the victorious Griffins.