Women's Tennis Kicks Off Season with Weekend Matches
Williamsburg - The No. 56-ranked William and Mary women’s tennis team will jump start its dual-match season with matches on back-to-back days, beginning with a season opener at No. 7-ranked Duke on Saturday, Jan. 22, at 11 a.m. The following day, W&M returns home for its first match of the season at the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center, welcoming Big Ten foe and No. 74-ranked Wisconsin on Sunday, Jan. 23, at 10 a.m.
Duke went 22-8 last season, including a 6-1 win over the Tribe in Williamsburg. The Blue Devils advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals before falling to rival North Carolina, 4-3. The Duke lineup features five singles players ranked in the national top 71 and three doubles teams in the national top 40. Reka Zsilinszka leads the way at No. 4 nationally in singles, while Nadine Fahoum is No. 25. Fahoum and Nllah Nze are ranked No. 4 nationally in doubles.
Wisconsin opens the year at Old Dominion on Jan. 22, before traveling down to face the Tribe. The Badgers lost only one senior from a team that finished last season at 9-16 overall and 3-7 in the Big Ten. The Badgers advanced to the Big Ten Quarterfinals before falling to Michigan. W&M and Wisconsin played a tight 4-3 contest in Madison a season ago with the Tribe pulling out the narrow road victory.
Here is a look at the Tribe’s season preview:
Despite a youthful roster, the Green and Gold will look to ascend to the top of the Colonial Athletic Association and earn an NCAA Tournament berth in 2011. The Tribe returns six players from a team that advanced to the CAA Championship match and gave then-No. 25-ranked VCU all it could handle in a 4-3 title tilt setback. Third-year head coach Meredith Geiger-Walton and third-year assistant Toni Neykova added to their solid group of returners with a four-member recruiting class that was ranked No. 7 in the Tennis Recruiting Network’s Mid-Major rankings.
The W&M roster features seven underclassmen with four freshmen and three sophomores. Senior Lauren Sabacinski and juniors Katie Kargl and Tori Ford will be charged with leading a young but talented group.
Sabacinski, who missed the fall with injury, returns for her fifth season with the Green and Gold. She owns the most career victories in both singles and doubles on the Tribe roster, having won 63 singles matches and 66 in pairs action. Last season, Sabacinski won 20 doubles matches and closed the season earning Third-Team All-CAA honors along with Marlen Mesgarzadeh in doubles.
After suffering a season-ending injury in 2008, Sabacinski will look to return to the form of her first two seasons in singles competition. During both her rookie and sophomore campaigns, she won more than 20 singles matches and was a fixture in the Green and Gold lineup.
Kargl, like Sabacinski, has battled injuries throughout her career, but is as healthy as she has been heading into the dual-match campaign. After winning four of her final five matches during the 2010 dual match season, Kargl won four singles affairs during the fall. Last season, the Downers Grove, Ill., native tallied key wins in the Tribe’s quarterfinal and semifinal wins during the CAA Tournament over Delaware and Georgia State.
Ford joined the Tribe last season after transferring from Syracuse. A highly decorated player in the state of Virginia, the Williamsburg, Va., native won a pair of state championships as a prep at Lafayette High School. Playing primarily doubles last season, Ford notched her first singles win as a member of the Tribe in advancing to the semifinals of the Flight G singles bracket at the Virginia Tech Invitational.
Marlen Mesgarzadeh highlights the Green and Gold sophomore trio having earned First-Team All-CAA honors in singles competition and third-team distinction in doubles as a rookie. Last season, she finished with an 18-12 singles ledger playing at the top of the Green and Gold lineup. Mesgarzadeh also tallied an impressive 20-8 doubles ledger, including an 11-3 mark with Sabacinski.
Sophomore Anik Cepeda was a fixture in the Tribe lineup during her rookie campaign and excelled during the fall leading the Tribe in singles and doubles victories. She was the only W&M player to advance to the third round of the ITA Atlantic Region Singles Championship. A season ago, Cepeda topped the Green and Gold with 25 singles wins, including 14 in dual-match competition. She closed out the season strong, winning eight of her final nine matches, including victories in all three rounds of the CAA Tournament.
In doubles competition, Cepeda earned First-Team All-CAA honors playing with Carmen Pop. The Tribe sophomore topped the team in doubles wins with 29, including 18 in dual-match competition.
Sophomore Nina Vulovich possesses incredible power on the court and will have a chance to again play toward the top of the Green and Gold lineup. She played up and down the Tribe lineup last season, tallying 11 dual-match wins. Vulovich finished the year with 19 singles wins overall. She missed the fall season, recovering from off-season surgery, but will look to return to full strength and make an impact on the Tribe lineup in her second campaign.
The rookie foursome of Hope Johnson, Jeltje Loomans, Marivick Mamiit and Sydney Smith comprise another talent freshman class for the Green and Gold program. After each enjoying stellar prep careers, they got their first taste of college tennis during the fall, enjoying success.
Johnson, one of the top junior players in England, tallied six wins in both singles and doubles competition during the fall. After advancing to the round of 32 at the ITA Atlantic Region Singles Championship, Johnson capped off the fall season in style with a win over a national top-50 player. At the Kitty Harrison Invite, she defeated No. 49-ranked Hillary Bartlett of Princeton in straight sets after nearly defeating the No. 33-ranked player in the country from Texas A&M the previous day.
Playing with fellow rookie Loomans, the freshman tandem won a pair of matches at the ITA Atlantic Region Doubles Championship as one of two Tribe teams that advanced to the quarterfinals. During the final tournament of the fall at the Kitty Harrison Invitational, Johnson paired with Cepeda and pulled off an impressive victory over a Texas A&M duo.
Loomans tallied a pair of singles wins during the fall, missing part of the season with injury. She tallied her first collegiate victory in the top singles flight at the season opening William and Mary Invitational. Loomans won her opening match of the ITA Atlantic Region Singles Championship before having to withdraw with injury. She tallied five doubles wins during the fall campaign, including advancing to the regional quarterfinals with Johnson.
Smith won four singles matches during the fall season, including her first collegiate win at the season-opening William and Mary Invitational. The Washington, D.C., native also won a pair of matches at the Virginia Tech Invitational. Smith was ranked No. 128 nationally in juniors and earned team MVP honors during all four of her seasons at Georgetown Day School.
Mamiit came to the Tribe as a standout at South Pasadena High School, compiling a 130-4 record and earning four team MVP honors. A five-star recruit from the Tennis Recruiting Network, she won the California Bowl in 2008 and was the runner-up in both 2007 and 2009, while also claiming the 2008 and 2009 West Coast Championships. Mamiit only played in the fall opening William and Mary Invitational, but won her opening two matches of the event to advance to the Flight C semifinals.
The Tribe women's tennis team kicks off the dual-match season at No. 7 Duke on Saturday, before hosting Wisconsin on Sunday.