Last season, the women’s tennis team surprised some people on their way to winning the Big East championship. This season, with two new players, the team is poised to make a national title run.
The 2003 season began Saturday night under the lights at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center where the No. 24 Miami Hurricanes played host to No. 45 Illinois. The ‘Lady Canes rolled to a 6-1 victory, starting their season off the right way.
“We normally start off with a weaker team but to start off with a team like Illinois, who did well last year, and win like this, it’s great for momentum,” said coach Page Yaroshuk.
After winning the double point, Canes newcomer Megan Bradley defeated Jennifer McGaffigan (6-2, 6-3) in her first match since coming off shoulder surgery eight months ago.
“For coming off of surgery, I thought I did extremely well,” Bradley said. “A couple times there was a lapse of concentration, but overall, I was very happy.”
At No. 2 singles, Mari Toro defeated Tiffany Elclov (6-4, 7-6), while Staci Stevens beat Eldina Fazlic (6-2, 7-5). Also, newcomer Melissa Applebaum won her first collegiate match in dominating fashion (6-2, 6-1) over Michelle Webb, which clinched the victory for the ‘Canes.
“It’s just a different level this year,” Yaroshuk said. “We’ve added two players at No. 1 and No. 4 that are going to take this program to another level. Last year, we were inconsistent, this year I think this team expects to end top 15 in the country.”
The night match allowed the crowd to come out and watch Miami play, despite temperatures in the lower 40’s. As this team continues to win, Yaroshuk hopes more fns will come out and support the ‘Lady Canes.
“I was a little worried considering we were playing Illinois, a team used to the cold, but the girls just came out here, and it didn’t phase them,” Yaroshuk said. “They wanted to play at night, to get the fans out here, they were so incredibly focused.”
Starting off with a victory is essential to Miami’s goal to be one of the top teams in the nation. With the talent on this team, there is no reason to think the Canes could not be one of the nation’s finest.
“I have an unbelievable group of girls,” Yaroshuk said. “I spend time recruiting to get the right personalities, I pick character over talent, and now it is at the point where I am fortunate enough to get both.”
Character and talent, the two most important keys to success are definitely present on this team, and could be the main reason why this team could contend for the national title.
“The keys to success are simple,” Yaroshuk said. “If they stay focused and keep their confidence up, and work hard, this team could go far. Obviously, we want to win the Big East, and win regionals, but I want to get this program into the top ten of the country. That’s my goal.”
Darren Grossman can be reached at DRG215@aol.com