In 1964, The Beatles took America by storm when they played on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
Here at the University of Miami, the sixth-ranked women’s tennis team (20-3, 9-1) has its own version of “The Fab Four” in the form of four nationally ranked singles players – junior Laura Vallverdu and sophomores Bianca Eichkorn, Michaela Kissell and Julia Cohen.
Vallverdu, who ranks 22nd, might be the elder stateswoman of the quartet, but she sees herself as one of the younger members.
“I started out my freshman and sophomore years as the baby of the team,” she said. “Now when we’re around I kind of seem like the baby. It’s cool to have three sophomores that act like juniors and seniors on the court.”
The All-American also provides boisterous vocal support to her teammates playing on surrounding courts.
“I have to be more like the leader,” the Valencia, Venezuela, native said. “Not just because I’m older, just because I’m that way. I’m more ‘out there’ even though I’m 5’2″.”
With the introduction of fourth-ranked Cohen, Vallverdu moved from the first to the second position where she has found her groove, winning five consecutive matches and holding an 8-2 ACC record.
“I think it’s been easier just because Julia has been doing so well. That’s just what I want for the team and everybody,” she said.
Eichkorn hails from Tengen, Germany, and came to Miami for the top-notch tennis program and ability to play year-round.
“When I came it was the first time for me in the States, and me coming into a totally international team was nice because you’re not the only one English isn’t the first language for,” she said. Kissell and Cohen are the only two Americans on the seven-woman roster.
“B” said that her personality is a balance between Vallverdu’s outgoing side and Cohen’s quiet nature.
Though the 5’6″ right-hander at times finds herself overshadowed by teammates, she collected her 34th win of the season on Sunday, which tied her with 2007 NCAA Singles Champion Audra Cohen’s 2005-2006 record of 34.
On the court, the 27th-ranked Eichkorn rides a nine-match winning streak.
“I’m a pretty hard fighter. I’m fighting until the very last point and don’t give anything to the girl,” she said. “I have a lot of variety in my game, too, so I’m probably not that easy to predict.”
Kissell, whose unmistakable “trademark” is a noise she makes while performing a breathing technique while playing, admits that fellow UM athletes as well as her hometown Pittsburgh Steelers know who she is because of it.
Ranked 51st in the nation, she not only claims to be the jokester on the team, but the singer and dancer as well. She also admits to having her own rendition of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.”
On the court, the 5’8″ Hostetter, Pa. native has won nine consecutive matches. Her game is a mixture of power and hustle.
“I just really try to fight for every point and not give my opponents too many free mistakes, but at the same time I know one of my strengths is my power,” she said.
But the final piece to the puzzle was Cohen, who transferred from the University of Florida this past year.
Unlike many newcomers, however, jitters didn’t take over when she arrived on campus to meet her new teammates.
“They were all really nice. I had known them before I came,” Cohen said. “It was a pretty easy transition.”
While Kissell and Vallverdu are talkative and Eichkorn lies somewhere in the middle, the 5’6″ Philadelphia, Pa., native easily fits on the other side of the spectrum.
“I’m pretty shy. I just stay to myself. I don’t really talk that much,” she said. “I just play my matches and that’s it.”
Having won 14 matches in a row for the Hurricanes, Cohen found just as much success in her only year at UF. She was named SEC Rookie of the Year and ITA Rookie of the Year.
“I’ve been focusing pretty good and concentrating pretty good and I think it was at first just getting used to Miami, but now I feel really comfortable here and I’m glad I’m here,” Cohen said. “I’m really happy that I can help the team out. The team’s doing well and I really want us to win the national championship.”
As Miami prepares for the postseason following its match against Maryland tomorrow, the girls realize how special their situation is.
“I think it’s really amazing. I think everyone, we push each other every single day and I think that’s what why we are all four in the rankings,” Eichkorn said. “We can go pretty far this year, but just the thought that no one is going to leave next year is amazing.”
Kissell vividly recalls her first day on campus and the mentality that head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews instilled in the girls.
“I knew that Paige wanted to win a national championship,” she said. “I knew I that was going to work hard. I didn’t know where would be, but I was hoping to be a part of something as special as what we’re trying to do right now.”