Women’s Tennis Faces Its Own March Madness
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – In a month that’s known for its college basketball, the 10th-ranked University of Miami women’s tennis team is about to embark on some madness of its own.
The Hurricanes are hitting the road for a weekend in the Lone Star State, facing No. 22 Texas on Friday, March 22 and No. 29 Baylor the next day. Then it’s back home to take on Brown on March 27. ACC foes NC State (No. 40) and Wake Forest roll into town later in the week, visiting the Neil Schiff Tennis Center on the March 28 and 30, respectively.
“Physically we’re going to be fine. It’s just going to be keeping everybody together mentally,” said head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews. “Win or lose, we’ve got to put it behind us and look to the next day, because the next day we’ve got a tough opponent in front of us. And that’s going to be pretty much from now to the end of the season.”
The regular season winds down in April, but the pressure doesn’t, with two ACC matchups each weekend through April 21.
The team may be young, as half of the players are freshmen, but Yaroshuk-Tews is confident in their ability to weather the storm.
“Pressure’s only going to be an issue if we let it be an issue. If you allow yourself to get stressed out, you’ll get stressed out,” she said. “When you sign up to play here, you wear a bulls-eye on your shirt every day of the week, and every match that you play you have to look at pressure as a privilege. It’s something that’s earned, it’s something that’s fun.”
Yaroshuk-Tews has taught her girls to expect opponents to be playing their best tennis, since taking down a highly ranked team like Miami is often the big win of an opponent’s season. Keeping the team motivated hasn’t been a problem.
“For us it’s normal to come with a smile to practice and have fun out there,” said freshman Stephanie Wagner. “We know that we have an important matchup coming and we’re all excited to go there.”
Morale was at a high after the Canes’ last match against Georgia Tech. After a last-minute move to an indoor facility, Miami powered through to a commanding 6-1 victory. After clinching the doubles point, the five singles victories were bookended by freshman Monique Albuquerque’s first collegiate win (6-1, 6-3) and a dramatic 7-5, 0-6, 7-5 win by Wagner.
“We’ve been talking a lot about managing matches, understanding where we are in the matches,” said Yaroshuk-Tews. “When you’ve got a lot of new blood around, those are some of the things you need to focus on. The intensity and the fight, that’s been there, that needs to stay there. But I think we played good tennis in an adverse situation, which I was most happy about.”
This adverse situation included a loud facility full of Yellow Jackets fans. But Wagner said that the few Canes fans that did show up made their presence known.
“We were sticking together,” she said. “Even though there were just two or three who cheered for us, we were as loud as they were and really tried to keep the energy high.”
This had the team entering their week off on a high note. With half of their matches still to play, they had one day off after the win before it was back to work. Fitness became the focus, as the coaching staff had the girls running more than usual and hitting the gym to ensure they stay healthy down the stretch. Yaroshuk-Tews is also stressing that they not let the highs get too high or the lows get too low.
“I think mentally it was good for them to have a week off and just kind of absorb the season and absorb where we are, and get ready to move forward and end strong,” she said. “They’ve worked for this. They’re ready for this.”
This weekend will have the Canes facing a Texas team that’s coming off of a three-match win streak, most recently a 6-1 win over No. 28 Oklahoma State. After winning a toughly contested doubles point, the victory was ensured for the Longhorns (6-7) by No. 52 Breaunna Addison’s 6-2, 6-3 singles win. At last year’s ITA National Indoor Championships, Miami defeated Texas 4-2.
Baylor (7-10) is also on a three-match win streak and last defeated West Virginia, 6-1. The Bears won the doubles point with two 8-2 victories. On the singles side, No. 12 Ema Burgic dominated court one, 6-1, 6-1, and the win was clinched by a 6-3, 6-2 victory by 124th-ranked Megan Horter. Baylor visited Coral Gables last season, then ranked No. 10, and the No. 12 Canes earned a 6-1 victory.
This season, Yaroshuk-Tews’ players are showing poise and wisdom beyond their years. She says she has tried to impress upon them that no match is more important than any other, and Wagner has taken that to heart.
“I just think from match to match and from point to point, and try to make the best out of every single point and try to win every match,” Wagner said. “I try to [remember] the feeling of how it is when you win a match. It’s always the best feeling.”