Sinead Lohan, Wendy Zhang shine on women’s tennis team

Sophomore Wendy Zhang hits a forearm shot during the Hurricanes’ January matchup against Georgia Tech. Zhang had a match point to beat Texas Tech, but ultimately lost the match in three sets during the ITA National Team Indoor Championship. Giancarlo Falconi // Staff Photographer

The women’s tennis team consists of six underclassmen and two seniors, but what the Hurricanes lack in experience, they make up for with youthful talent. The Canes have four singles players ranked in the top 70 of the Oracle/ITA rankings, three of which are sophomores. Yolimar Ogando is currently out with an injury, but the No. 12 Canes still have Sinead Lohan and Wendy Zhang racking up points on the court.

Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews works to ensure that the team maximizes its considerable potential.

“My expectations are that these kids buy in and buy in consistently, not sporadically,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “I think if we can get to that point by late March, we are going to have a really successful season.”

Lohan and Zhang have bought in.

“The goal is not to lose an ACC match,” the No. 7-ranked Lohan said, adding that the team also wants to do well in the NCAA Tournament in May.

“Everyone puts in a lot of effort. Everyone puts everything into the match,” the No. 69-ranked Zhang said.

The Canes (4-2, 1-0) have relied heavily on the two players to take care of business in doubles and singles competitions. In the team’s 4-3 win against Oklahoma State last Sunday, Lohan had a crucial victory against No. 38 Vladica Babic. Zhang was a part of the only doubles-competition win and later defeated No. 89 Kelsey Laurente in singles to clinch the match for Miami.

The coach had plenty of positive things to say about Lohan, her second-year star from Waterford, Ireland. In her freshman year, Lohan was an ITA All-American for singles and an  ACC Freshman of the Year. She also received Second Team All-ACC honors.

“In our opinion, Sinead could get up to the top three in the country. She is an absolute bear when it comes to matches,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “The thing that Sinead possesses that a lot of other girls don’t is her determination to win. She just hates to lose.”

The coach was equally complementary of Zhang.

“Wendy Zhang has come a long way,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “She probably gets a little overshadowed, but she has improved a ton and she is going to provide a lot of strength for us in the middle of the lineup.”

As a freshman, Zhang was on the All-ACC Academic Team and was an ITA Scholar-Athlete. The well-traveled player out of Richmond, B.C., Canada has already made a big jump this season, moving from No. 80 to No. 69 in the national rankings after her performance against OSU.

“She has improved her focus and her approach to practice, which has really helped her on match day,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “A lot of our success will really depend on her showing up for matches.”

The team’s secrets to success are hard work and coaches who push the players to be their best.

“We have two hours on the court and an hour of fitness,” Zhang said about the team’s daily routine. “Our coaching staff is all amazing. Sometimes they are hard and strict because they expect a lot from us. They believe in us sometimes more than we believe in ourselves.”

Right in the middle of her 15th year as head coach of the Miami women’s tennis team, UM Sports Hall of Fame inductee Yaroshuk-Tews knows a thing or two about how to get the most out of her players.

“A lot of the things that make every season special is the progression and teaching of the young ladies in front of you,” Yaroshuk-Tews said about her approach to this season. “We tend to take it one day at a time around here. We set short-term goals, we have things we need to improve upon, we don’t focus on the rankings too much and we try to set ourselves up for the best position going into the NCAA Tournament.”

As the season moves forward, Yaroshuk-Tews always emphasizes a few points to her players.

“Be true to yourself as a human being,” she said. “Another thing is understanding the difference between working hard and truly wanting to die on the tennis court to win a point.”

The coach’s messages have resonated with players at Miami for 15 years and continue to push the team – Lohan and Zhang included – toward success.