President Donna E. Shalala looked on from a packed Miami crowd that included fans, family and teammates as 19-year-old Wendy Zhang battled in a tumultuous three-set match in 83-degree heat on Saturday.
In one of the final matches of the regular season, the freshman and her team fell valiantly to No. 2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is the Canes’ second conference loss of the season and their first loss at home in 24 matches.
Despite the narrow loss this weekend, the Miami Hurricanes women’s tennis squad has been dominant, to say the very least, in the 2014-15 season. A consistent top-20 ranking, paired with their exceptional depth and breakout star highlight the past few months’ successes. The Hurricanes are ranked No. 16.
Veterans Monique Albuquerque and Clementina Riobueno, who were dominant in last years’ doubles matchups, face competition from teammates Wagner and senior Lina Lileikite as the dominant duo on the team. Wagner and Lileikite had risen to No. 6 in the country as of March 24, and Albuquerque has had more success in singles matches as of late.
“Monique was undefeated the whole season last year at No. 6, so she’s proven to be a very good singles player,” Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews told Hurricanesports.com. “She had some things going on that she got worked out and it’s nice to see that she has that bounce back in her step and she’s playing great tennis.”
Wagner has also had a breakout junior season, holding onto a No. 6 ranking in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association for singles. In the fall, she won the Duke Fab Four Invitational handily without giving up more than seven games in a match and fought her way to the finals of the USTA Collegiate Clay Court Invitational. She has posted an 8-3 record in singles competition in head-to-head competition and is only getting hotter.
The freshmen have also been a major contribution to Miami’s success. Five out of nine girls on the roster are freshmen and have stepped up to the plate in both singles and doubles matches.
In the fall, Zhang won both the singles draw of the USTA Clay Court Invitational and the doubles draw with fellow freshman Sinead Lohan in the Bedford Cup. This weekend, Silvia Fuentes took down No. 72 Whitney Kay.
“Silvia played a great match today,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “We obviously have a lot of belief in her and we know that she’s capable of playing like that, and she’s been a player that’s proven to want to play in the big moments. I’m happy to see a freshman out there getting it done like that.”
The Hurricanes will travel up to the Midwest this weekend to take on Notre Dame on Friday and Louisville on Sunday in a doubleheader.