Commentary: Tennis offers athletic optimism

It’s been more than a few seasons of discontent around these parts, as fans of the University of Miami have grown accustomed to disappointment. Between football’s failure, basketball’s injury bug and the surprising struggles the baseball team has faced, it’s been hard to be a Miami Hurricane.

But there is hope. There is a team to rally behind. They might not be as well known as others, but they have perhaps the best chance to advance to a NCAA final this year. How do I know this? Because they already did it last year.

They are the women’s tennis team, and since 2001 they’ve been among the most successful programs at the University of Miami. They’ve advanced to every conference final they’ve participated in since 2002 and have won two in that span. They’ve participated in 11 straight NCAA tournaments and will likely advance to their twelfth this year. And last year, they got all the way to the NCAA Championship, losing to powerhouse Stanford.

Women’s tennis doesn’t have the glitz of football or baseball, but this is a team that can win. It wasn’t always that way, but Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews has put in the commitment to return the ‘Canes to prominence.

“When I started working at UM, we were [No.] 35 in the country,” said Yaroshuk-Tews, who was born and raised in Miami. “I really couldn’t believe that. In the back of my mind, I was like, ‘My god, this is the University of Miami. If Miami’s not a powerhouse, who’s going to be a powerhouse?'”

And a powerhouse they are again. With Audra Cohen, the No. 1-ranked player in the country, all-time Miami singles and doubles leader Audrey Banada and a strong squad behind them, Miami is looking to finish what they left off last year.

It’s been a good year for the ‘Canes, finishing 17-5 overall and 8-3 in the ACC. They struggled two weeks ago, losing to Duke and North Carolina, but finished strong by defeated Maryland and Boston College last weekend, not losing even one set in any match.

They start their post-season quest this Friday in Cary, North Carolina, as they begin play in the ACC Tournament. To give you perspective on what Miami will face, they’re ranked tenth in the nation, but fourth in the conference tournament. The ACC is stacked, yet Miami still finds success.

The conference title will be difficult to capture, let alone the NCAA title. But, Miami has the power to face these challenges and make history. They’ve got the goods to make it this year and remain strong for years to come.

Miami has hosted a regional for the last two years, and with any luck, they’ll get a third this year.

If they do, I hope this university rallies around this squad, and packs the Neil Schiff Tennis Center. After all the disappointment and sadness this year, it’ll be good for everyone to rediscover what it feels like to root for a feel-good story.

Matthew Bunch may be contacted at