Women’s Tennis: Season marked by big wins, tough defeats

Coming into this season, the expectations were very high for Miami’s women’s tennis team, who appeared in the NCAA finals and earned a preseason rank at No. 5. Since then, there has been conflict: they’ve lost two close matches to top 10 teams, one top 10 player and fell three spots to No. 8 in the polls.

Despite the trouble, they have fared well, and remain in a strong position to make another run at the NCAA finals.

This past weekend was a mixed bag for the ‘Canes, as they took down the No. 22 ranked Texas Longhorns 4-3, led by a huge win from junior transfer Gina Sabatino, formerly of Boston University. Sabatino, in the No. 5 position, defeated Stephanie Davison 7-5, 7-5.

The weekend headed south when the team headed north, losing to Florida 4-3 at Linder Stadium. Audra Cohen claimed her seventh singles win of the season, defeating No. 11 Diana Srebrovic, sweeping her 6-4, 6-4, reaffirming her spot as the No. 1 singles player in the country. Sabatino came up big again, defeating her first-ranked opponent, Whitney Benik, who is ranked No. 78 in the nation.

However, the fourth-ranked Gators were too much for the ‘Canes. With the match tied at 3-3, Audrey Banada took No. 95 Megan Alexander to three sets but ultimately fell short, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Miami has played solid so far this year, defeating two ranked teams, Texas and No. 10 Baylor. The only other loss of the year came at the hands of sixth ranked Northwestern, in the quarterfinals of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships.

The injury bug has largely stayed away from the ‘Canes so far this year, although it did bite one player big time. Laura Vallverdu, a freshman sensation ranked No. 6 in the country, injured an ankle which required surgery last week.

According to Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, Vallverdu will be out for an extended period of time, but is expected to make a full recovery.

“She’ll be up and running in a few weeks,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “She’ll be fine.”

The ‘Canes will face a tough schedule the rest of the way, as they have not yet entered ACC play, which will truly test the strength of the team. The ACC is perennially strong, with 11 of its 12 teams currently ranked nationally in the top 75; Boston College is the only team not ranked.

The team will have to fasten their seatbelts and get ready for the ride, as their schedule is ready to heat up. The next few weeks should give everyone an idea of where the team stands, as they will be facing elite competition on a weekly basis.

Matthew Bunch may be contacted at m.bunch@umiami.edu.