After a 14-7 record last year and a conference championship, the Hurricane women’s tennis team is looking to improve from last year’s success and burst onto the national scene. These may seem like lofty goals, but the team has added a wealth of talent.
“We have very high expectations for this season, but at the same time we are not focused on merely national rankings,” head coach Paige Yaroshuk said, now in her sixth season at UM, second as head coach. “We will take the season week by week, knowing not to look too far ahead.”
The addition to the squad that has gained the most attention is that of Megan Bradley, the second ranked player in the nation (according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s preseason rankings). Bradley, a transfer from UCLA, could be the missing link to a national title run.
Last year, while at UCLA, Bradley was an All-American in both singles and doubles and was named the ITA’s National Rookie of the Year. She ended the season with a 30-9 record and a national ranking of No. five (UCLA was fourth overall).
“If you look at all of the top ranked schools, they all have a dominant player who can rack up wins in singles and doubles,” Yaroshuk said. “In Megan we now feel we have that player who can be dominating.”
At UM, Bradley will team in doubles with another newcomer with a great track record, freshman Melissa Applebaum from Coral Gables. At Gulliver Prep School she was the top ranked high school player in the state of Florida. As a doubles tandem they pose a threat to any school in the country.
“We are very excited about the doubles team of Megan and Melissa,” Yaroshuk said. “They should work well together.”
Yaroshuk can also count on the services of junior Mari Toro, sister of assistant coach Tari Ann Toro. Toro was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the Big East Tournament last year, with a 13-5 record at first singles and a 24-10 record overall.
Toro should provide experience to a group that only has one senior, Igna deVilliers, on its roster. While some could foresee this as a major problem, no one around the team feels that it will have an impact on the season.
“We only had one senior last year, so we know that it won’t be a problem,” Yaroshuk said. “A young team equals a hungry team. Even the younger players are mature, like Melissa [Applebaum], who had success in the junior circuit.”
The women’s tennis program has a long history of success, with an all time record of 471-200, a .702 winning percentage. They ended last season ranked sixth in the region and thirty-second in the nation.
While Big East play doesn’t start until the spring, the ‘Canes have entered several fall tournaments to stay sharp. The first tournament, the William and Mary Fall Invitational, starts on today, which should provide a good indication of where the team is at right now.
“We are looking at this upcoming tournament and the entire fall season as a chance to improve and try out new things,” Yaroshuk said. “It will be a tough tournament but it will help us to keep moving forward and doing the right things on the court.”
Performing well in these fall tournaments is a nice goal for the short term, but the overall expectations for the 2002-2003 tennis season involve another Big East title and some national attention.
Eric Kalis can be reached at email@example.com.