Sweet 16 dreams

After advancing to the second round of the NCAA Regionals last year, the women’s tennis team has its sights set higher for 2003-04 after finishing with a record of 17-7.

“I’d love for us to get to the Sweet 16 this year,” Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk said.

The Hurricanes return all but two players this season, and also bring in two newcomers after falling to No. 24 Kentucky at the end of last year.

Yaroshuk is excited about the upcoming year for many reasons. One is the team has a promising player, who has received national attention, in junior Megan Bradley.

“I think Megan is really ready to have a break-out year,” Yaroshuk said. “She’s looked real good and is ranked No. 34 in the country.”

Not only will Bradley be helping out in singles play, but she will also be paired with sophomore Melissa Applebaum (No. 48 in the country) in doubles. The duo is already ranked No. 10 in the preseason rankings and they worked well together a year ago. They posted a 15-3 record overall, including 14-1 at No. 1 doubles, developing a chemistry they hope to maintain for the next couple of years.

If women’s tennis had a BCS system implemented like in college football, the Hurricanes would have one of the toughest strength of schedule ratings a team could possibly have.

“There are definitely some tough matches this year,” Yaroshuk said. “We have to go to UCLA, Notre Dame, and Harvard, which is extremely tough, but we get a break when Virginia Commonwealth comes down here.”

The trip to UCLA will be a return to Yaroshuk’s alma mater, where she shined as a singles and doubles player with the No. 4 Bruins.

Other players returning from last year’s squad include seniors Sihem Bennacer, Mari Toro, and Sara Robbins, as well as junior Staci Stevens.

The lone freshman on the team this year is Audrey Banada from North Miami Beach. The other newcomer is sophomore transfer Natalie Mikolich, replacing graduates Abby Smith and Igna deVilliers.

The team is loaded with experience, which has led to certain players developing chemistry with each other over time.

“There is no single team leader, which is why I haven’t designated anyone as captain,” Yaroshuk said. “Everyone contributes equally and it’s really great to have on a team.”

Another bonus for the team is that everyone is healthy to start out the year.

“One of our goals this year is to just keep everyone healthy,” Yaroshuk said.

Although the polls don’t come out until the first half of the season is over, the Hurricanes are projected to have a high ranking. They were No. 24 when they lost to Kentucky in the regionals last year.

The ‘Canes get back into action on October 10th at the Florida Fall Tournament in Gainesville. Their first home match is January 31st against Florida Atlantic.