Concordia Women’s Tennis Lose to Université de Montreal in Semi-Final Matchup

Team Looking for More Exposure, University Backing.

Kiefer Shaw during Saturday’s semi-final matchup against the Université de Montreal Carabins. Photo: Jordan Stoopler
Raffaela Pannizza shakes hands with Anne-Li Briand following Briand’s 6-4, 6-4 victory on Saurday. Photo: Jordan Stoopler

The top-ranked Université de Montréal Carabins downed the Concordia University women’s tennis team in the semi-final of the provincial playoff series Saturday afternoon at Uniprix Stadium.

The playoff tournament follows the Fed Cup format. Two schools will face off in six singles matches, each worth one point per win. Then, they play three doubles matches—winning two out of those three would net you a point. First to four points win the match.

The Carabins, the defending Tennis Québec University League champions, won four singles matches and the doubles match against Concordia. They did not need to play the final two doubles matches since the Carabins had already secured the victory with the four singles wins. The win put the Université de Montréal in the finals, to be played on Sunday.

“They are a pretty strong team overall,” said Concordia team captain Rafaella Panizza. “As a whole, they have decent girls throughout their whole lineup.”

Concordia head coach Dominic Labelle cited the absence of Concordia’s third-ranked player Grace Kunooz Talih, away with a school commitment, as one of the main reasons for his team’s struggles on Saturday. Her absence meant that everyone was competing against a level that was higher than what they were used to. Still, Labelle was pleased with how his team competed given the extenuating circumstances

“Nevertheless, our players played well. Our new number three, Sabrina [Giron], played amazing. She lost in three sets and it was a good battle,” said Labelle.

Panizza also put in a strong effort for Concordia, despite falling 6-4, 6-4 in straight sets. In the second set, she broke her opponent—won a game in which her opponent was serving—Anne-Li Briand in the fifth game after falling behind a break early on in the set. Panizza roared with each point won in what ended up being a hard-fought battle.

“I gave all that I have,” said Panizza. “It started working and I came back. I almost brought it to 5-5 [in the second set], but I couldn’t capitalize.”

Nevertheless, Panizza was critical of certain elements of her game.

“I wasn’t 100 per cent and [Briand] knew how to use it against me,” said Panizza. “My backhand wasn’t so good and she picked on it.”

The lone winner for Concordia on Saturday afternoon was Kiefer Shaw. She overpowered the Carabins’ Aziza Berriri in three sets, 4-6, 6-4, 10-6. Shaw struck the ball hard all throughout her match, appearing engaged in every point.

Building Buzz

The tennis team is considered a sports club, and not one of the university’s varsity teams. This year, they partnered with the Concordia Student Union to help defray some of the team’s budget for renting practice facilities, but are looking to secure a full-time backing from Concordia Athletics to continue their growth.

Labelle is hopeful that the team will soon be recognized as a member of the Stingers varsity family.

“As soon as we get that Stingers logo, people will get affiliated with the team more,” said Labelle. “People will realize that we have a tennis team. We could then be put on the Stingers website and have our results shown there. It’s hard right now because the exposure is not there.”

For now, the team is just reveling in a strong season that brought them to the semi-finals, all the while optimistically looking ahead for all that awaits the squad.

“My goal this season, with the personnel that we had, was to qualify for the finals,” said Labelle. “It was a super nice season regardless. There is something we can build on for next season.”