When the Binghamton University women’s tennis team begins its pursuit of a conference title at the America East Championship today, it will do so with one goal: dethrone 21-time champion Boston University.
Although the No. 3 Bearcats (9-12) will kick off play against No. 6 University of Hartford in Flushing, N.Y., it seems as if the team’s sights are already set on the final round. Boston will all-but-assuredly be waiting yet again and will be looking to continue its dominance of the America East at Binghamton’s expense.
In each of the 10 years the Bearcats have been a Division I program, they have finished no worse than third place and have posted seven second-place finishes. But in each of the last four years, those second-place finishes have come at the hands of the Terriers.
Led by seniors Jillian Santos, Marina Bykovskaya and Emma Leibowicz, Binghamton will take to the Flushing courts in hopes that this will finally be the year that they can take home the conference crown.
“As always, we have a really good shot at coming away with a championship,” Binghamton head coach Libby McGovern said. “[Just like every year], it’s going to be a battle.”
Each of the team’s seniors will head into the weekend not only looking to eventually take down the Terriers, but also hoping to cap off impressive individual careers of their own.
Santos, who will play at No. 1 singles, sits in a tie for third place on the program’s all-time singles wins list with 86.
Bykovskaya, who has without question been the squad’s most consistent player this season, has won a team-high 21 matches and boasts 72 career victories. She was also named America East Player of the Week on April 24 following a 2-0 record last weekend against Stony Brook University and Hartford.
Leibowicz has won a team-best 10 doubles matches this season and ranks eighth all time with 65 doubles victories.
McGovern said that she could not ask anything more of her seniors and hopes the trio will continue to pave the way as it has all season.
The Bearcats have won four out of their last five matches, including a dominating 7-0 win over the very Hartford Hawks they are set to face in today’s 11 a.m. match.
“It’s always nice to go in and ride a bunch of wins at the end of the season,” McGovern said. “We’ve been playing extremely well and want to keep that rhythm and flow going.”
On Thursday, McGovern did not seem too concerned with her team’s first-round opponent — and understandably so. The bottom-seeded Hawks are a laughable 1-17 overall in the 2011-12 season and are winless in conference play, as well as against Binghamton all time.
She said that she will use that to her advantage and look to use the opening-round matchup as an opportunity to “let [the freshmen] relax and show them that it’s no different [from the regular season].”
Should the Bearcats take down Hartford, they would then face No. 2 University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Saturday’s semi-final at 10 a.m.
The winner of that match would then all-but-assuredly face the Terriers in Sunday’s 11 a.m. final.
“Everyone wants to knock off Boston,” McGovern said. “We’ve done it twice in the regular season; we’re just waiting for the one that really, really counts.”