Cyclones tennis team headed back to nationals
Next May, Moraine Valley College tennis players will experience the joy of six.
While Paris in the spring appeals to many, spending time in Tyler, Texas, instead will be just fine with the Cyclones. That’s the site of the 2014 National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament, and it’s where Moraine is headed for the sixth time in program history.
The Cyclones punched their latest ticket to the NJCAA event by placing second in the Region IV Tournament on Oct. 12. Moraine hosted the two-day event, and eight of its nine entries won a first-round match.
Leading the way were singles players Claudia Maka (No. 4) and Tricia Poremba (No. 6), each of whom emerged as a champion. Maka won her title match by coming from behind against an opponent who had defeated her during the regular season.
Both Poremba, who was unbeaten this fall, and Maka earned all-region recognition.
Finishing as runners-up were Alexa Armon (No. 3 singles) and Lindsey Walker (No. 5 singles), while the doubles tandems of Maka-Kelley Grzych (No. 2) and Walker-Poremba (No. 3) both took third. Walker pushed hard before suffering a 6-4, 6-4 loss in her singles encounter.
Turning in fourth-place showings were Grzych and Liz Dominguez at second- and first-singles, respectively.
“I cannot be more proud of each and every one of my girls throughout this season,” Cyclones coach Nicole Selvaggio said. “From Day 1, they worked their butts off, and I was not easy on them. To be able to go back to the national tournament, this time as a coach, absolutely means the world to me.
“This was a team effort. Seeing it all come together when it counted — well, words cannot describe how amazing that felt, not only for me, but also for all of us.
“I know what to expect at the national level. It’s not going to be easy competition. However, we are resilient and excited for our chance to be a part of, and play against, the nation’s best.”
The golf team’s Region IV Tournament appearance wasn’t as satisfying as their tennis-playing counterparts at Moraine.
The Cyclones linksters had to settle for a ninth-place finish at the two-day, three-round event, which concluded Oct. 12. John Yerkes fired a 78 to pace Moraine through the first 18 holes, but that score couldn’t be duplicated at any other time.
Jeff Cizek (82-87-85) and Joe Knight (83-87-84) actually wound up as the Cyclones’ overall leaders. Besides Yerkes (78-94-98), Pat Neylon (84-94-84) and Jack Misheck (88-92-86) rounded out the Moraine lineup.
“Almost all our guys ran into problems at the worst time of the season,” Cyclones coach Bob Freudenthal said. “But we didn’t finish last, which is good.
“I warned them of the faster greens, but they had trouble adjusting. Of all the [negative] factors, that was No. 1 in our performance, [but] it is what it is.”
Despite the disappointing conclusion, Moraine had a decent 2013 campaign. The Cyclones were second in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference and three golfers — Knight, Misheck and Neylon — were chosen as members of the All-ISCC squad.
“It was a respectable season overall,” Freudenthal said. “Anytime you come in second in conference, that’s noteworthy. It just wasn’t [completely] satisfying because we didn’t get first or qualify anyone for nationals [in May].
“But I look forward to next year. We should have a few of our freshmen back and [some good] prospects, all of which could put us back in the mix next season.”
In their final tune-up before the postseason begins on Saturday, the Cyclones prospered from being part of a highly competitive field at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Brooks Invitational last weekend as they posted some of their lowest times of the fall.
Although both the men and women wound up near the bottom of their respective race standings, Moraine was the lone junior college represented at the meet. The Cyclones men took 34th among 37 schools, while the women were 35th.
Dawid Palac once again led the way for the guys as he covered the 8K distance on the Lake Breeze Golf Club course in 27 minutes, 55 seconds, which was good for 332nd place among 566 finishers. Brandon Ceh clocked a 28:29 and was the next Cyclone down the chute as he occupied the 387th position.
Thomas Cira (443rd in 29:13), Anthony Briante (502nd, 30:42) and Justin Briante (503rd, 30:50) were Moraine’s other scorers. Alejandro Montes (516th, 31:14) and Larry Byrd (548th, 33:06) also competed for the Cyclones.
“Most of the guys took advantage of good racing weather, a fast field and a fast course to turn in their best times so far,” Moraine coach Mark Horstmeyer said. “This is a tremendous race, and it gives our guys the experience to know what it’s like to compete against NCAA Division III-ranked teams, as well as top NAIA teams from the Midwest.
“Most of the guys thought they could have done better, but this meet served its purpose: getting them ready for conference and regionals, and hopefully nationals.”
Aileen Gorman was once again the Cyclones’ female pacesetter as she completed the women’s 5K event in 24:34. That landed the Marist grad in the 214th spot in a 509-runner field.
Moraine’s other scoring placers included Tiffany Huntley (378th in 26:44), Jessica Flores (386th, 26:51), Miranda Reyes (437th, 28:04) and Maritza Najera (461st, 28:54). Rounding out the Cyclones’ lineup were Lex Mindock (471st, 29:28) and Sury Rosete (507th, 38:34).
“This was the biggest meet of the regular season and a great final tune-up for the women,” Horstmeyer said. “It was a great racing day at a great race.
“The team gained experience in what it’s like competing against some elite teams. I was really pleased with their effort and gamesmanship.”
Moraine will host Saturday’s ISCC meet at Pioneer Woods Forest Preserve.
“This is our new course, and it will be challenging,” Horstmeyer said. “It truly is a ‘cross country’ course — it has hills and flats, and it will demand smart running. We’re excited that we can host our conference meet.”
Although they suffered a 3-2 loss in their regular-season finale last Tuesday, the Cyclones still took second in the ISCC. A 2-0 win over Kankakee Community College three days before helped clinch the deal.
Keying Moraine’s victory on Oct. 12 were sophomore Marko Enciso and freshman Leonides Lezama, who tallied the Cyclones’ goals. Joe Mastej set up Lezama’s score, while Enciso’s marker was unassisted.
Greg Healy found the back of the net for the Cyclones in their setback against Daley College, off an assist from Patryk Paprocki. A Daley own goal was responsible for getting Moraine on the board initially.
The Cyclones immediately avenged their loss to Daley College by notching a 4-0 win in the opening round of the Region IV playoffs.
The Cyclones get postseason play underway on Saturday.
Two more wins made it six in a row for the Cyclones, whose latest dual-match conquests came against McHenry College (25-11, 25-15, 25-18) and Illinois Valley College (25-19, 25-16, 25-15) last Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
Moraine, which was ranked 20th in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, improved its ISCC ledger to 6-0 by beating McHenry. Taylor Serrano, Autumn Seiler and Kara Kentner all put down 10 kills to pace the Cyclones, and the threesome also registered 10 blocks between them. In addition to her kills and five blocks, Serrano served an ace, while Kentner augmented her other statistics with 19 assists.
Lending a hand as well was Oak Lawn grad Olivia Lindner, who donned the libero shirt for two sets and had five digs.
Kentner and Serrano were key figures along the net again on Thursday, as the former notched a team-best 13 kills and Serrano recorded nine. Neither player was guilty of any hitting errors. For good measure, Kentner also passed out 20 assists.
Other notable contributors for Moraine versus Illinois Valley were Gina Ryan (10 kills, 14 digs) and Joanna Curtis (team-high 25 assists, two service aces).
Following the Cyclones’ Game 1 victory, Kentner was presented a ball in recognition of a career achievement. During an Oct. 5 match against Joliet Junior College, Kentner distributed her 1,000th assist for Moraine.
In their final tournament appearance of the regular season, the Cyclones faced top teams at Kishwaukee College last weekend and came away with a four-match split.
Friday’s action began with Moraine absorbing its second loss of the year to NJCAA Division II No. 5-ranked Muskegon (Mich.) College, 25-14, 25-22, 25-19. Kentner (seven kills, two blocks), Seiler (five kills) and Serrano (four) were the Cyclones’ key performers.
After a short break, Moraine was back at it versus Owens Community College. Following a 25-17 defeat in the opening set, the Cyclones roared back to capture the next three by scores of 25-15, 25-14, 25-23.
Kentner was at the top of her game as she registered 17 kills with no hitting errors, 18 assists and 12 digs. Serrano added 12 kills and three blocks, Ryan chipped in eight kills and 15 digs, and Alex Bojan supplied five kills and three blocks.
No. 4-ranked Oakland Community College outlasted Moraine 25-16, 25-20, 21-25, 25-16 in Saturday’s first match. As was the case against Muskegon, the Cyclones were forced to cope with a bigger opponent along the net.
Kentner (14 kills, 15 assists, one block, one ace), Serrano (nine kills), Seiler (six), Ryan (six) and Curtis (23 assists) were Moraine’s notables.
The Cyclones then squared their tournament ledger at 2-2 by downing No. 8 Rock Valley College 25-17, 25-22, 17-25, 25-16 in Saturday’s second encounter behind strong efforts from Serrano (12 kills, four blocks, service ace), Ryan (10 kills, 14 digs) and Kentner (nine kills, 21 assists, two blocks, one ace).
Today’s nonconference match against Elmhurst College completes the Cyclones’ regular schedule.