Sophomore Paola Calderon opened her season at No. 1 singles with a tough comeback win over conference foe Louisville on Jan. 24. Calderon lost the first set 4-6 but came back and took the next two sets, 6-2, 6-0, respectively, to take the point.
Since then, she’s fought the toughest competition at the toughest spot in the lineup for five consecutive weeks and hasn’t felt her load lighten.
Coach Jody Bronson said that Calderon has seen a lot of difficult adversaries, but the quality of play is making her stronger.
“There are so many good No. 1’s that every match is going to be a battle,” Bronson said. “Along with that comes the opportunity to become better. You have great opportunity to have wins against great players.”
Calderon hadn’t had a win since a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Northern Illinois on Feb. 5, and she had been hurting.
“I’ve been struggling the last month, or last few weeks,” she said. “Being at No. 1, it’s even harder to get out of your funk.”
Senior Maggie Wilson said she wouldn’t want to say her teammate was in a funk but noticed that Calderon was struggling.
“It’s very tough because there’s a lot of pressure at No. 1,” Wilson said. “You’re never going to play anyone who’s going to give you any room for error.”
Calderon had difficult losses this weekend, going three sets with Western Michigan’s Emily Dudzik on Friday, falling 6-4, 3-6, 4-6. On Sunday, she had another agonizing battle with Illinois State’s Aniko Kiss.
After Calderon and Olga Fischer beat out the doubles team of Kiss and Natalia Lech, 8-5, at No. 2 doubles, Kiss came back for a tenacious battle for the singles point. Kiss outplayed Calderon, 7-6, 7-5, at No. 1, and Calderon went into her match against Wisconsin-Green Bay with another pair of disheartening losses on her hands.
Calderon rebounded from the morning’s loss, though, and stood her ground for a solid victory over UW-Green Bay. She gave up just one game, earning the victory in two short sets, 6-1, 6-0.
“It feels good to have a good match,” said Calderon, who is now 3-5 on the season at No. 1 singles.
Bronson said she was happy with the way Calderon rebounded and said that all of the players are working to maintain the intensity necessary for that level of play.
“You have to figure out, ‘How do I stay in the battle, and how do I win the battle?’ ” Bronson said. “It’s more drawing out of your ability to elevate and to play at a high level all the time.”
The Golden Eagles brought out the best in themselves for both matches on Sunday. The women defeated Illinois State, 6-1, and walloped UW-Green Bay, 7-0.
Bronson said the team needs to stay on target and keep up the momentum they create when they’re playing at home.
“You can never relax,” she said. “Every point has to be intense.”