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Huskies, Fortin stay hot in preparation for Pac-12 play

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Huskies, Fortin stay hot in preparation for Pac-12 play

Sarah-Maude Fortin serves the ball against the University of Idaho in a Women’s singles match Jan. 31, 2021. Fortin and the rest of the Washington women's tennis team swept Portland State Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. 

It was another clinical performance for the Washington women’s tennis team on Thursday afternoon, as the women in purple-and-gold continued their undefeated start with another 7-0 sweep, this time against Portland State.

One of the most intriguing players in the Huskies’ (6-0) hot start to the season has been true freshman Sarah-Maude Fortin, who moved further up head coach Robin Stephenson’s lineup card Thursday, playing second singles in place of junior Sedona Gallagher.

Gallagher has struggled of late, losing the lone individual match of the season for the Huskies Friday. Fortin replaced Gallagher as senior captain Vanessa Wong’s doubles partner a week ago against Seattle U.

She hasn’t disappointed. In her new role at second singles, Fortin bulldozed her Viking opponent 6-0, 6-1, giving Stephenson a young, reliable starter. 

On Friday, however, Washington’s competition gets tougher, as Washington State arrives for a matinee match on Montlake. The Cougars’ number one player, senior Michaela Bayerlova, has the program’s record for wins over nationally ranked players with 19.

Wong has never faced Bayerlova, after last year’s season was cut short due to COVID-19. But after winning her match 6-1, 6-0 on Thursday, Wong has yet to drop a set in preseason play and enters Friday’s match with a chip on her shoulder after six straight victories.

Across the lineup, the Huskies will need to display their depth in order to hold up against tougher Pac-12 competition. 

Perhaps that’s why Fortin’s performance throughout the early season should offer the Huskies a boost of confidence moving into conference play, with key players holding up their end of the bargain below Wong on the roster.

Gallagher has a chance to get back on track, as well. She began the season at first doubles and second singles but has since moved down to second doubles and third singles. After a chaotic, elongated offseason, this type of early-season slump can be expected.

But, with WSU and Baylor coming to town in the next three days, Gallagher and the rest of the Huskies will need their best performances to show the country they can handle tougher opponents.

Tomorrow’s match against WSU begins at noon at Lloyd Nordstrom Tennis Center.

Reach senior staff reporter Nick Mendro at Twitter: @m_mendro

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