Women’s Tennis Heads South For Texas

While some sports teams play a few easier teams over spring break, the Women’s Tennis team traveled to Texas to take on some nationally ranked powerhouses and managed to play right along with them. Taking a break from the wintery weather of the North, the Women’s Tennis team played Southwestern University, #39 University of Texas-Tyler, and #20 Trinity (TX) in three outdoor matches. In addition to spending a week in the South, the team was able to climb into national rankings (#40) for the first time since 2007.
The Garnet left spring break with a 2-7 loss to Southwestern University, a 5-4 win against UT-Tyler and a close 4-5 loss to Trinity. Although they were not able to squeak out three wins, these athletes were able to stand as serious contenders in all three matches. Vivien Fernandez ’20, a member of the first doubles team, the second singles seed, and a true asset for the Garnet, was particularly proud of how they performed.
“We played three different nationally ranked teams and we didn’t let that intimidate us. Instead we used it as fuel and came close to beating two of them. We ended up winning one and only lost the other by one match,” Fernandez said.
That one victory was a particularly big moment for the team. Emma Kassan ’20, the first singles seed and a member of the second doubles team, was fired up by the win.
“If I had to choose one highlight from the trip, it would be when we defeated UT-Tyler 5-4. It was our first win of the season and it was against a nationally ranked team. It was very rewarding and shows that we can do a lot in the upcoming conference play,” Kassan said.
Overall, there were individual and team successes on the trip and there was certainly an air of excitement. Alli Wong ’17, the fifth singles seed, a member of the first doubles team, and team captain, highlighted the focus her teammates exuded throughout the trip.
On the trip I think our team did a great job staying with our opponents and fighting throughout the entire match. During a 2-3 hour match it’s really hard to stay focused throughout the entire thing and keep a positive attitude on court,” Wong said.
Both Kassan and Fernandez are joined by Shirline Wee ’20 as big new assets for their program. But, the returning players have served an experiential and equally impactful role. Wong has helped as the only senior on the squad; but returners such as Anna Scheibmeir ’18 and Julia Gokhberg ’19 have also contributed doubles and singles wins respectively for the team in those particularly close matches over spring break. This year, the Women’s Tennis team may only have one senior, but they have a spread across the classes in experience and talent.
I sometimes feel like a mother hen, but I love spending time with the team and mentoring underclassmen,” Wong said. “I can definitely see our freshman growing a lot during their first year, athletically, but also academically and socially. We’ve always been considered a ‘young’ team since my sophomore year — when we had one junior, me, and 5 freshmen — but this year we finally have a strong group of upperclassmen to lead the team and help develop a strong and cohesive team dynamic.”
These players are showing opponents they have the talent to be a real threat in the league. However, in addition to all of the hard work they have put in at practice and in matches, they have managed to find time to bond in creative ways.
Our first night in Austin we went out for dinner and then learned how to do the Texas two-step at a dance hall called the Broken Spoke. It was a lot of fun dancing and seeing some locals. We all had a great time, but I think most of us will be sticking with tennis over Texas two-steppin’,” Wong continued.
Luckily, these athletes are great at tennis and are not willing to be satisfied with the success of this trip alone. All of the players are excited and ready for upcoming conference play.
“Ever since the beginning of the year, one goal has been to make it to the playoffs,” said Kassan.
This goal was reinforced by the strong play in Texas, and the team looks forward to their first conference matchup as a nationally ranked team against the Gettysburg Bullets this coming Saturday at Gettysburg.
“Finally getting a national ranking after over ten years was a big step forward, but we have a whole season to keep climbing up the ranks,” Fernandez said.
For the team, spring break was just one of the first steps on the way to a strong round of conference play and a shot at playoffs. While their season might not be graced with nice weather and outdoor matches, it will certainly be filled with tight matches, countless demonstrations of talent, and victories as this team fights to excel in the Centennial Conference this year.  

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