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NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – With back-to-back trips to the Northeast-10 Final in the last two years, the Merrimack College women’s tennis team has developed an aura of success around the program. Picked to finish third in the conference in 2015, the Warriors are out to prove that they have the talent to compete with the best the NE-10 has to offer.

Head coach Aaron Bergeron enters his second season leading the program. Two-time Player of the Year Grace Messina (Caracas, Venezuela) steps into a captaincy role for her junior year. Messina has yet to lose a singles match in league play in her career and combines with senior Chealsey Giatrelis (Centerville, Mass.) to form a potent combination at No. 1 doubles. Giatrelis will serve as the other team captain after an all-conference campaign in 2014.

Giatrelis returns as the lone senior on the roster for the Warriors. She ranked on the All-Conference First Team at No. 1 doubles after a 10-2 record during league play. Overall, she went 19-6 during doubles play, winning nearly 80 percent of her matches.

At singles, the third-year player finished on the all-league third team at No. 2 singles. She won 10 of 11 conference matches and posted an 8-1 mark at No. 2. She also won seven matches performing at No. 3.

With a roster filled with underclassmen, Messina returns as the lone member of the junior class. As the Vern Cox Player of the Year in the NE-10, Messina did not lose a match during singles play and only succumbed once on the doubles court. With playing with Giatrelis, the pair went undefeated at 7-0.

Messina enters her third season with a 24-0 record in the league during singles and 22-2 during doubles action. She won 48 total matches last year, including 21 at No. 1 singles.

The sophomore class will be leaned on to improve after some strong freshman campaigns. Danielle Dunn (Middleton, Mass.) returns after seeing time at No. 3-4 singles in 2014. She put forth an impressive record at No. 3, winning five of eight appearances. Classmate Mackenzie Blair (Thomaston, Conn.) performed at No. 5-6 singles last year, including an important victory at No. 6 during the NE-10 Semifinals against Adelphi. Blair and Dunn combined as doubles partners on 11 occasions as well.

Abbey Bryant (North Brookfield, Mass.) rounds out the group of second-year players. She appeared in eight singles matches and seven doubles matches during her rookie season. Bryant recorded an impressive start to her career during doubles play, winning her first three matches.

Four newcomers will grace the Warriors’ uniform in 2015 and expect to be fixtures in the lineup. Celine Mende (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and Lauren Persson (Barnstable, Mass.)arrive in North Andover from the New England region. Mende ranked as a two-time MIAA All-Star, while Persson competed at No. 1 singles during her last two years with Barnstable High School

Freshman Mana Seifaei (North York, Ontario) debuts on campus as the second international play on the Merrimack roster. Fellow rookie Meredith Wedro (La Crosse, Wis.) is coming off an all-conference campaign as a senior at Aquinas High School in Wisconsin.

The Warriors begin the season this weekend with two road matches, including the conference opener against Saint Rose on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Golden Knights finished in the bottom half of the conference last year, including at 8-1 defeat at the hands of Merrimack.

The Navy and Gold wrap up the opening the week with a non-conference test against Colby-Sawyer at 1 p.m. from New London, N.H.

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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