The women’s tennis team is entering the home stretch of the regular season. They are ranked No. 16 in the country and remain undefeated in matches played at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.
The Hurricanes (11-4, 7-1) have been a metronome of stellar play all season long, never having been ranked bellow the top 20 in the country. Led by junior Stephanie Wagner, the ITA No. 6-ranked singles player in the nation, the Canes are trying to finish the season ranked in the top 15 for the 12th straight year.
The Canes have a crucial homestand this week with matches against No. 24 Duke (12-6, 7-1) on Thursday and No. 2 North Carolina on Saturday. Miami is currently tied for second in the ACC with Duke, as the undefeated Tar Heels (21-0, 9-0) lead the conference.
With only six matches left before the ACC Championship begin on April 22, these two matches represent the biggest challenge Miami will face before entering postseason play.
North Carolina handed Miami its first loss of the season back in February during the ITA Division I National Women’s Team Indoor Championship, held in Charlottesville, Virginia. Duke just ripped off an eight-match winning streak in March, which was snapped last Sunday in Durham against Georgia Tech.
The Hurricanes recently upset No. 8 Virginia 5-2 in a nearly seven-hour match last Friday, but followed up the impressive win with a 4-3 loss against Virginia Tech.
“That’s the beauty of sports; if you don’t show up ready to play, you typically lose,” Miami Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews told HurricaneSports.com after the loss to the Hokies. “Some days you’re the hammer and some days you’re the nail. Today we chose to be the nail. Maybe we’ll learn – let’s see, that’s not up to me.”
The Canes have an interesting makeup this season, with five freshmen and four upperclassmen filling the ranks. In addition, every player was born outside the U.S. This hasn’t stopped the team from getting along, however, as Miami boasts two of the top 30 doubles pairs in the country: the No. 6-ranked team of Wagner and senior Lina Lileikite and the No. 29-ranked duo of senior Monique Albuquerque and junior Clementina Riobueno.
Miami is accustomed to excellence from the women’s tennis team after 19 straight NCAA tournament appearances and nine consecutive trips to the Sweet 16. How the Hurricanes fare against tough Duke and North Carolina squads this week will go a long way toward determining whether or not the streaks will continue.