The Knox College Prairie Fire women’s tennis team recently traveled to Madison, Wis. to take part in the Midwest Conference Doubles Championships. They did so without senior Charlotte Garvin, who was inactive for personal reasons and is arguably the Prairie Fire’s best player. In spite of the loss, the Prairie Fire earned a victory as senior Emiley Brand and junior Claire Neri defeated Illinois College in their opening round number two doubles match with a score of 6-2, 6-3.
“Emiley and I had a good record with our partnership, so I was actually looking forward to the challenge of playing up,” Neri said. “During the actual match, we played really well together. Emiley’s strokes were incredible, and when I was at the net we were unstoppable. She set me up for some very good aggressive smashes.”
The duo defeated Illinois College, but were downed by Carroll University in their next match. While they played well, Carroll proved to be too much for the Prairie Fire women.
“Carroll had two strong players who knew where to place the ball to take that perfect shot away,” Brand said. “Claire and I had to be quicker on our feet and had to break their mental game to compete on their level. We figured this out in the second set and gave them a run for their money. By the end, Claire and I decided to play our best but mostly to have fun with the match, and I think this enabled us to excel during this set, even though it ended up in a loss. We figured if we couldn’t end up taking the second set we might as well go down fighting. I am proud to say that we did.”
The Prairie Fire women’s premier doubles team of senior Dana Pierce and sophomore Eden McKissick-Hawley were matched against Carroll’s number one doubles team and played tremendously before being defeated. Carroll won the first set by a score of 6-4, Knox responded with a win of 7-5 in the second, but Carroll ultimately ended the match with their third set score of 6-4.
Pierce, who was nervous going into her final moments of tennis, found comfort in how well she and McKissick-Hawley played with one another despite the loss they received.
“It was my last shot, so I had to leave it all out on the court, and there was nothing to lose,” Pierce said. “Eden also played really hard and probably played the best tennis of her short season. Her positive attitude stood out most to me because it made it easier to play the tough points knowing she was there. We could tell how much we improved throughout the season by how we stacked up against our opponents, and this was proof that the hard work all season paid off.”
Sophomores Margaret St. Clair and Keegan Dohm played as the third doubles squad for the Prairie Fire. They lost 6-1, 6-1 to Carroll in the quarterfinals and 8-2 to Cornell in the consolation semifinals.
“We played well and earned a few games off them before falling. I’m really proud of how we played. Even if we didn’t win, we fought for every single point and didn’t give up for one second, even when we were down,” St. Clair said. “This was my first season with Knox women’s tennis, and I couldn’t be happier with the program and my experience. Coach Miriam knows how to push her players to be the best they can be, both on and off the courts, and I’m glad to have been a part of her first year here at Knox.”
Grinnell College, St. Norbert College and Lake Forest all won doubles championships at the event. The women’s season concluded with the singles championships that Sunday, in which they were represented in the number one, number two and number six singles consolation matches as well as the number four and number five singles runner up matches. The Prairie Fire totaled 18 points on the day, which was good enough for eighth in the tournament overall.
“As a team we can feel very proud of finishing eighth again this year,” Coach Miriam Skrade said to prairiefire.knox.edu. “We had three new varsity players, two players that moved up four spots from last year and we were without our number one, Charlotte Garvin. Finishing three points shy of seventh place was a team effort. Everyone contributed to our point totals by playing hard on the court and supporting team