Intrigue, Drama, and Suspense
The Cleveland Cavaliers trail the Golden State Warriors 1-3 in the 2016 NBA Finals. What does that mean? Well, in a “best-of-seven” series, the Cavaliers need to win three games IN A ROW to win the series while the Warriors only need one. As it turned out, the Cleveland Cavaliers would do the unthinkable, winning 3 in a row, and taking the series 4-3 over the dazed-and-confused Warriors.
The Cleveland Indians lead the Chicago Cubs 3-1 in the 2016 MLB World Series. At this point, everybody wants to know if the Cubs have what it takes to turn things around or can the Indians hold on for ONE MORE GAME to win the World Series? Believe it or not, against all odds, the Indians would blow that lead, allowing the Chicago Cubs to break a 108-year-old “goat curse” and pull off the unimaginable. “Unimaginable” in the sense that throughout the history of Major League Baseball, there have only been six teams to come back from a 1-3 deficit to win it all.
While these are tremendous accomplishments for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Cubs, what does it mean to the FANS of these two teams? How does it feel to be a fan of the winning team? Of the losing team? How does it feel to be a fan of the team that is down 1-3? Or up 3-1? Imagine the intrigue, drama, and suspense of watching this best-of-seven series. And what does this have to do with tennis?
Best-of-Seven versus One-and-Done
I’m glad you asked. And the answer is “not much”; other than the idea that pro tennis would be infinitely more enjoyable if it was a best-of-seven series rather than a one-and-done tennis tournament. The reason: in a best-of-seven series there are more opportunities for momentum to swing in both directions. “But who would want to play a best-of-seven match” you say? “Isn’t a best-of-five match long enough? Who would want to watch/play THAT?!? It would take forever!!!” And to that I have to shake my head at the short-sighted, myopic view of most tennis “fans”. Many of them are unable to see beyond the tennis tournament (or the top 4 players in the world) to realize there’s a lot more to tennis that they know nothing about. I’m referring to what I like to call exciting tennis, or Team Tennis.
American Universities employ this best-of-seven Team format where every player on the team contributes to the end result and, honestly, I find it infinitely more enjoyable, interesting, dynamic, satisfying, entertaining, and exciting than tournaments. Seeing players working together to accomplish their goal speaks to me instinctively. No one person can be good at everything and asking one player to carry the entire burden of winning is unreasonable. Besides, what good is winning if you have no one to share it with? And no one should have to suffer through a loss alone, either.
TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More
Tennis Tournaments Lack Real Signifigance
From a spectator’s point-of-view, watching a match between two peripheral players, where the outcome is of little significance, is boring. And unfortunately, tennis tournaments are chock full of players on courts 5 thru 14 that couldn’t be identified without a name badge and in
introduction, just waiting to be eliminated. Just pull up the draw sheet for any recent ATP or WTA tournament and you’ll see what I mean. They aren’t bad players, there just isn’t enough room in the winner’s circle, or in the Game Day program, for more than two people. On the other hand, the best-of-seven series, combined with a full Season of matches between Big 10, SEC, ACC, and Big 12 schools, gives the audience a compelling story that is not only significant… but easy to follow.
See, in Division 1 College tennis, games are often conducted in a best-of-seven format. Meaning, they will play tennis on 7+ courts simultaneously and the team that wins 4 courts wins the match. In the First, of two Rounds, players will pair up to play doubles on courts 1, 2, and 3. The team that wins two-out-of-three courts wins the Doubles Point. Then the teams move on to the round of singles and doubles teams will split up to play singles on courts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Here, each court is worth one point apiece. Together, with the doubles point, the team to win four out of the seven available points is the winning team. In Div. 2, 3, NAIA, and JUCO each doubles match is worth a point, resulting in 9 total points, so teams play best-5-out-of-9.
Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the World Series or the NBA Finals, doesn’t it.
Now, the team that wins the doubles point has the advantage going into the round of singles, but that does not guarantee a win because there are still 6 points remaining. So much drama leaves the audience guessing as to who will come out on top. And that’s exciting! What if one team is full of individuals who don’t play well together? What if one team is made up of primarily doubles specialists (aka. Team Players)? What if one of the doubles-winning teams is being carried by one of the players, so when they split up and play singles, they win one and lose one?
The Coach’s Contribution to Best-of-Seven
All of those are things that can factor into the end result. And we haven’t even talked about the Coach’s contribution yet! In College tennis, the Head Coach is responsible for determining the lineup for each team. That means some players will play both doubles and singles while some will play ONLY doubles or singles. It depends on how they perform in practice, how well they work together as a team, if they are injured, and who the opponent will be that day and the following day.
The Head Coach, along with the Assistant and Graduate Volunteer Coaches, must take all of these things into consideration. And on Game Day, all 3 Coaches monitor their players’ performance making corrections and adjustments when needed. And it is that complexity that makes College tennis an infinitely more intriguing product than tennis tournaments. By the way, ever wonder what a professional tennis coach does for a single player when the draw is pre-determined and coaching is ILLEGAL at tennis tournaments? It doesn’t sound like they have much to do!
On a side note: why is Coaching illegal at tennis tournaments? Name another sport where this is the case. What’s wrong with giving/receiving advice during competition? Is this why kids avoid tennis like toxic waste? Is this why so many lopsided tennis matches end 6-2, 6-1? Is winning not important? Is it really better for a player to carry the entire burden of competition by themselves? Is tennis a superior game and are tennis players superior individuals because they endure such torment (tennis coaches believe this)? And what kind of people are we producing as a result (If they last more than a month)? But I digress.
In terms of excitement, things like unpredictability, uncertainty, and facing adversity factor into a spectator’s enjoyment of a sporting event. Predictability, sameness, and a lack of creativity are what makes something boring. I believe College team tennis falls into the first category. Granted, when the #1 team hosts an unranked opponent, on paper, it can lack some of the flash. But when you consider a College tennis match is best-of-seven, every match is compelling. For example….
Watching a Best-of-Seven Tennis Match
Let’s say that the #45 Miami Hurricanes women’s tennis team were hosting the #17 Duke Blue Devils in Miami, and AATT had planned a field trip for some of our players to see it. What if the Duke Blue Devils were riding a 4-game win streak while the Hurricanes were on a 2-game losing slide? And the game was being played in Miami which means the Hurricanes have “Home Field Advantage” (there are no “Home teams” in tournaments).
On paper, this looks like a sleeper match. I mean, it’s #45 versus #17. But remember: College tennis is best-of-seven. Now you have to wonder: Can the Blue Devils continue their dominance, or can the Hurricanes turn their negative momentum around? Which team came ready to play? Is every player on the roster ready to compete? With the fandom of both Hurricanes and Blue Devils hanging in the balance, this is much more than a “sleeper” match. Because they are playing for more than themselves.
Duke would win two of the three doubles matches to take
the doubles point and go up 1-0. Duke would also win in straight sets on Court 3 to go up 2-0. And then on Court 1, the Miami player would roll her ankle and be unable to finish the match. Duke now leads 3-0.
On a side note, if I were in charge of tennis, and a player was unable to finish a match or was just playing poorly, I would substitute them. I mean, we want to win, right?
Anyway, with a 3-0 lead Duke would only need to win one of the 4 remaining courts to win the match. And the Hurricanes would have to win ALL 4. Miami would win in straight sets on Courts 2 & 5 making the score 3-2 in favor of Duke.
The Hurricanes would need three sets to win on Court 6 and now the score is tied 3-3 and it all comes down to Court 4. Court 4?!? You mean the fate of the entire team comes down to the #4 singles players for both squads?!? Wouldn’t you rather have your superstar in that position? How much faith do we have as Hurricanes/Blue Devils fans that #4 can win his match? Will the pressure of the situation get to either player? Or have they been preparing their whole lives for this moment? The remaining players from both teams are now watching from Court 3 and encouraging their teammate in this critical moment. And all of the fans are crowded around Court 4 to watch the final match play out. This feels a lot like Game 7 of the World Series! And we’re only 3/4 of our way through the SEASON!
When the Hurricanes player scores a point, the Hurricanes fans cheer.
When the Duke player scores a point, the Duke fans cheer. This is intense!
Everyone in the stadium is experiencing a wide range of emotions. When your team is ahead, there’s confidence that she’ll get the job done. When they’re behind, there’s fear. Fear that your player is beginning to press, to get in her own head, unable to block out the sound of cheers for the other team, and groans from her supporters when she misses. Hundreds of eyeballs are watching her every move, hoping the ball stays in, second-guessing that last shot, waiting for one of the Hurricanes or Blue Devils’ shots to land in the net. We’re up, we’re down, we’re inside-out! (Fans don’t do well in handling their emotions.)
And then the final ball is struck, it sails beyond the baseline, and players from the winning team come pouring onto the court, arms held high, shouting at the top of their lungs, to embrace their teammate, and share in the feeling of joy at having won the match for their team. It really is a sight to see.
While players from the losing team walk slowly onto the court, arms open wide, not in celebration, but to console their teammate after having lost the match. They know their teammate may be having a difficult, five-stages-of-grief, time dealing with the knowledge that they lost it all for their team; that theirs was the game to determine the entire match, but let’s be honest: everyone shares in the loss. It was a best-of-seven match which means no one has to carry the burden of winning/losing alone. That is what makes the Team so valuable.
There are a number of reasons why players join teams, and why spectators gravitate towards team sports. Team Sports satisfy the need for companionship in ways that tennis tournaments do not. As a fan, I may not be able to play at that level, but I can experience the highs and lows of competition through my favorite Team. And when my friends and neighbors are fans, too, I have someone to talk to about it. I am not alone when I belong to a Team. Ever wonder why sports fans “live and die” with their teams? Because the wide range of emotions that can only be experienced through competition are what make life so exciting. And those emotions are more readily experienced at a College tennis, best-of-seven, team-versus-team tennis match where my favorite Team is playing. One-and-done doesn’t do it for me.
And that, my friends, is why College tennis is infinitely more enjoyable, interesting, dynamic, satisfying, and entertaining than professional tennis tournaments.
What do you think? Which would you rather watch, best-of-seven or one-and-done, and why? What are your thoughts on the best-of-seven format? Who are your favorite teams? Have you attended many of their matches? Where is the best place to watch? Which teams have the best chance of making it in the NCAA Championship? I would love to hear your thoughts.
The two things that separate All American Team Tennis from your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill tennis program are the two things kids enjoy the most. Remember the feeling of excitement when you would wake up on Saturday morning and put on your football pants and shoulder pads for Game Day? Remember the feeling of anticipation when your school was planning a field trip to the aquarium and you needed your parents to sign a permission to go with the class? Or maybe when the baseball team was entering a tournament out-of-town? Or when the marching band was scheduled to participate in the Citrus Bowl parade in Orlando, Fl and in addition to marching in the parade they were planning a visit to Epcot and staying in a hotel on the east coast just a few miles from the beach? (That last one happened my freshman year of High School). More than anything else, children enjoy spending time with their friends doing the things they find fun.
Game Day + Field Trips = All American Team Tennis
On Saturday February 20, All American Team Tennis held its first Car Wash Fundraiser in Greenacres, Fl, and it was a huge success. We’ve toyed around with fundraisers in the past (t-shirts, shoulder buddies) but this was probably the most visible fundraiser we’ve conducted because in crossing paths with so many new people it afforded us the opportunity to introduce them the the Youth Tennis League. The players and parents worked hard, we washed a bunch of cars, and received almost as many donations as cars washed. The atmosphere surrounding the event was very positive as the community really appreciates what All American Team Tennis does for the children of Palm Springs and Greenacres. But it doesn’t stop there.
The Car Wash Fundraiser was geared towards raising money for our upcoming field trip to Orlando to watch the University of Central Florida Knights Women’s tennis team take on the Green Wave of Tulane (they’re from Louisiana. I didn’t know that, either). The trip is scheduled for Friday March 25 and includes a visit to Disney Springs for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.
Now, this isn’t the first field trip our players have attended. In fact, this will be the 2nd of 3 field trips we are going on this season. And it isn’t the first time we’ve traveled to Orlando to watch UCF play or visited Disney Springs. It just so happens, our very first field trip was prior to the start of Season 1 back in November 2011. UCF hosted an Invitational with Arkansas, Auburn, Miami, and Florida Gulf Coast so I invited the players and parents I was working with at the time to drive to Orlando with me.
It was a memorable experience as rain interrupted play, causing 10am matches to start at 2pm. This would push back everything we had planned for the day including dinner at the T-Rex Restaurant at Downtown Disney. Looking back, I don’t remember who won the Invitational, but I do remember the animated dinosaurs and simulated meteor shower during dinner at the restaurant and spending more money than I had budgeted. (I learned so much that day.)
Since then we’ve been to see the Miami Hurricanes play Florida State in Miami, the Florida Atlantic Owls host the Owls of Kennesaw State in Boca Raton, and the UCF Knights host Florida A&M (FAMU) followed by lunch at Splitsville in Downtown Disney. We’ve taken players to Dave and Busters in Hollywood, FL, Boomer’s in Boca Raton, the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World resort, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex where Florida State now hosts their November Invitational (my personal favorite).
And we are not stopping. As All American Team Tennis continues to spread across America, children everywhere will be given the opportunity to witness some of the best tennis available: College Tennis. Players from around the world are filling college tennis rosters and these players play not only for themselves but for their team and their school. They understand the importance of being surrounded with a good support system. They realize what cooperation and teamwork can accomplish. They are always available for pictures and autographs. And they play for more than just one week out of the year. Yes, I believe, college tennis is a superior consumable product when compared to the professional game as far as accessibility is concerned because one week doesn’t compare to 6-7 months. So we will continue to schedule field trips to college cities so players who participate in All American Team Tennis can be inspired by what could become their Alma Mater.
You’re invited to join us on our next field trip. It could be the beginning of your child living out their dreams.
NCAA Individual Championship
In my opinion, tennis tournaments are probably the hardest to report on because there are too many players playing too many matches, too many consecutive days with not enough time in between to prepare for the next. I can only imagine what it is like to be a player, but as a spectator, it’s my job to sort through the clutter of activity to gather what’s important to the reader. Because other sports operate on a periodic schedule of games, rather than week-long tournaments, commentators are able to build anticipation for the next game on the schedule making it more exciting when following your favorite team.
I understand the thinking that ’More is better’, but what about “Too much of a good thing”? College tennis is the best method of conducting the sport and should be implemented on the professional level. Why? When you follow a team over the course of a season you begin to identify with them. It becomes appointment viewing. Every game matters and every game is important. Plus the players have enough time to rest during the season, they take fewer days off. This keeps the fans interested.
For example, have you ever heard someone, in reference to the weeks leading up to a Major tournament refer to those tournaments as “tune-up” events? That would imply that the tournament is of little value other than to prepare the favorites for the next big one. By diminishing the importance of Indianapolis or Atlanta or New Haven you diminish every player in the tournament making the event less appealing. Why would I go to this event if it doesn’t mean anything? It’s like watching your favorite football team: why would I pay to watch a game that doesn’t matter? When college tennis teams work their way through a schedule of matches, against teams from across the country, all for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championship at the end, every game is important. The season is not a “warm up” to the tournament, but rather a qualification FOR the tournament. A loss at the wrong time could drop a team in the standings and out of the Championship. A win at the right time could mean an easier draw when they’re accepted. Institute a season of scheduled matches and add significance to professional tennis.
Below you will find the results of the individual NCAA Singles / Doubles Championship for 2015 for players on Florida teams. It’s a lot to take in all at once, but it’s important to at least hear the names of players you are going to want to watch next season. Enjoy!
We can talk about why we’re playing this tournament another time.
For more on your favorite Florida college tennis teams follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis. GO TEAM!
#6 Doubles team Sophomore Courtney Keegan and Freshman Brooke Austin
Defeated Shayne Austin/Briar Preston of Arizona, 6-2, 6-2
Defeated Lauren Herring/Ellen Perez of Georgia, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3
Defeated Taylor Davidson/Carol Zhao of Stanford, 6-0, 1-6, 6-4
Lost to Klara Fabrikova/Zsofi Susanyi of California, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
May 22, 2015 – The Gators’ top doubles team of Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan advanced to the Round of 16 with a win over Arizona’s #27-ranked Shayne Austin and Briar Preston, 6-2, 6-2. Brooke Austin: “I thought we played really well… really aggressively.” Kourtney Keegan: “I don’t think it’s always easy… getting into a rhythm…. Getting a lead early helps you relax a lot…. You just feel more comfortable out there, and I think that helps a lot because you get more momentum that way.”
#3 Freshman Brooke Austin – Lost in Round 1 to #47 Jennifer Brady of UCLA, 7-6 (3), 6-3.
#56 Sophomore Kourtney Keegan – Lost in Round 1 to #20 Carolina Price of UNC, 6-1, 6-3.
#28 Junior Brianna Morgan – Lost in Round 1 to #57 Madison Westby of USC, 6-0, 3-6, 6-4
#58 Sophomore Belinda Woolcock – Defeated Lorraine Guillermo of Pepperdine, 6-2, 6-3
Lost in Round 2 to Sabrina Santamaria of USC, 6-3, 6-3
#13 Freshman Josie Kuhlman – Defeated Kyle Phillips of UCLA, 6-4, 6-1
Defeated Viktoriya of Oklahoma State, 6-3, 6-4
Defeated Maegan Manasse of Cal, 6-4, 6-1
Defeated Sinead Lohan of Miami, 6-3, 6-4
Lost in Semifinals to Carol Zhao of Stanford, 2-6, 6-4, 6-0
#17 Doubles team Senior Lina Lileikite and Junior Stephanie Wagner
Lost to #11 Lauren Herring/Ellen Perez of Georgia, 6-2, 6-2
#37 Freshman Sinead Lohan – Defeated Lauren Herring of Georgia, 6-1, 6-4
Defeated Caroline Price of UNC, 7-6 (3), 7-5
Defeated Natalie Beazant of Rice, 7-5, 6-1
Lost to Josie Kuhlman of Florida in Quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-4
#11 Junior Stephanie Wagner – Defeated Blair Shankle of Baylor, 6-3, 6-2
Defeated Beatrice Gumulya of Clemson, 6-2, 6-4
Defeated Saska Gavrilovska of Texas A&M, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4
Defeated #1 Robin Anderson of UCLA, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
Lost to Jamie Loeb of UNC in Semifinals, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
#91 Freshman Alizee Michaud – Lost to Jasmine Lee of Mississippi State, 6-0, 6-4
May 20, 2015 – #91-ranked Freshman Alizee Michaud endured an 0-6, 4-6 loss to Mississippi State’s Jasmine Lee in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championship. This would be the first singles match Alizee has lost all season. Jasmine Lee was a first-team All-SEC selection and the #23-ranked player in America. A very tall order considering Michaud was playing for the first time since April 18, when Stetson lost to FGCU in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament. Stetson Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote: “I believe her slow start had to do with her going about a month without playing any meaningful tennis… the second set was more of the quality level of play that we are accustomed to seeing from Alizee.” Alizee Michaud finished the regular season as the 2015 Atlantic Sun Conference Player and Freshman of the Year.
North Florida Singles
#96 Sophomore Jack Findel-Hawkins – Lost to Roberto Quiroz of USC, 6-4, 6-3
Jack was playing in his first match in over two months after being sidelined with an injury which makes his #96 ranking even more impressive. He won the Bedford Cup in the fall and the first Osprey to earn entry into the NCAA Singles Championship.
South Florida Doubles
#28 Doubles team Senior Oliver Pramming and Freshman Justin Roberts
Defeated Denis Nguyen/Brian Yeung of Harvard, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
Lost to Harry Jadun/John Patrick Mullane of Michigan State, 7-6 (0), 6-4
Congratulations to Oliver Pramming on a successful season with the Bulls, helping the team achieve a #18 ranking and capture its first AAC title. Looks like Justin Roberts will have to find a new doubles partner next season. But one-half of the #28 Doubles in the nation shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to play with.
South Florida Singles
#21 Junior Roberto Cid – Lost to Austin Smith of Georgia, 6-2, 7-6 (1)
Florida State Doubles
#16 Doubles team Juniors Benjamin Lock/Marco Nunez
Lost to Arjun Kadhe/Jakob Sude of Oklahoma State, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
Florida State Singles
#44 Junior Benjamin Lock – Defeated Uros Petronijevic of San Diego, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (4)
Lost to Ryan Shane of Virginia in Round of 32, 6-2, 6-1
The Miami Hurricanes Women’s tennis team had a very tall order in front of them in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship. After handling the North Florida Ospreys in the first round, 4-1, and fighting off the Ole Miss Rebels, 4-3, they would next face the #2-ranked team in the nation, the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Hurricanes and Tar Heels had faced each other two times during the regular season with the Tar Heels coming out on top both times. But the Hurricanes were into the Round of 16 for the 10th consecutive season, and surging at just the right time.
The forecast for the day called for showers which is good and bad; good, because it would keep the temperature down. Bad, because the Tar heels are accustomed to playing indoors, and the Hurricanes would need all of the favorable “bounces” they could get.
The doubles matches were close at the start. Sinead Lohan and Stephanie Wagner led the charge on court 1 but a single break would tip the scales in favor of UNC, 5-4, and that’s all she wrote. UNC takes court one 8-4. On court two, Monique Albuquerque and Silvia Fuentes would struggle, never really gaining control over their UNC opponents, and dropping the deciding set 8-3. UNC takes the doubles point 2-0, Lileikite and Zhang did not finish.
Losing the doubles point certainly makes winning the match much harder, but the Hurricanes have 5 ranked singles players which means they still have a chance to take 4 of the singles and ultimately the match. Unfortunately, once the doubles matches had been played it started to rain, forcing the matches inside, which favors the Tar Heels. And due to the limited number of indoor courts the matches would be played 3 at a time. First up: Stephanie Wagner, Sinead Lohan, and Silvia Fuentes. Fuentes would be the first domino to fall losing the first set 0-6. Lohan would be next, dropping the first set, 3-6. Wagner would keep it close, winning the first set, 7-5. But it would not be Fuentes’ day as she would give court 3 to UNC, 0-6, 2-6. Lina Lileikite would take the court for the #4 singles match. On court two, Lohan battled to the very end. It looked very promising when she tied the score at 5-5 in the second set, but there was nothing left in the tank and Lohan would lose the match 3-6, 5-7. Wendy Zhang would take the court for the #5 singles match. On court one, Wagner would drop the second set, 2-6, sending #1 singles into a third set. You could feel the air leaving the room for the scrappy Miami team. On court 3, Lina does her best to keep the team afloat, taking the first set, 7-5, but on court two, Zhang drops the first set, 2-6. The one bright spot on the day would come from senior Lina Lileikite as she would take out the #102 player in America in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2, giving the Hurricanes their first point, they trail 3-1. Because shortly after Lina shook hands with her opponent, the Wagner match would finish with UNC on top, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. UNC moves on to the Elite 8 with a 4-1 victory over the Miami Hurricanes. The loss had to be the hardest on senior Monique Albuquerque as she would not get to play in the last match of her career as a Hurricane.
Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tewes: “I think UNC played a great match. We were expecting them to be on their game. I think Haley [Carter of UNC] started out so hot at no. 2 that it kind of set the momentum a little bit against us at the beginning….” She continued “We just didn’t play the doubles that I wanted us to play, but there were some bright spots.”
One of those bright spots would be the play of senior Lina Lileikite who would finish her singles career with a straight set win over a ranked opponent for Miami’s only point. On the season, Miami reached its 10th consecutive Sweet 16, finished in the top 4 of the ACC for the 11th year in a row, and is sending 3 players to the NCAA Individual Championship (Wait a Minute! Didn’t we just finish the NCAA Championship?!? Different Championship.) Wagner and Lohan will be competing in singles while Wagner and Lileikite will compete in doubles. This takes place May 20-25 at Baylor University.
It was a great season; one that Coach Paige can certainly build upon. Better luck next year. GO ‘CANES!
For more on the Miami Hurricanes follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis.
The University of Miami Hurricanes Women’s tennis team will meet the North Carolina Tarheels for the third time this season, but this time it’s in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship. On the two previous occasions, UNC would come out on top; 4-0 on Feb. 7 and 5-2 on April 4. Pretty solid victories for the #2 team in the nation, but that was then and this is now. The Hurricanes are coming off of 2 solid wins in Regional play and playing some of their best tennis this season, accumulating ACC honors like a bookshelf collects dust, effortlessly.
And leading the charge for the ‘Canes is the ITA Southeast Region Player to Watch, Stephanie Wagner. Wagner would finish the season as the 11-th ranked singles player in the country and be selected to the All-ACC First Team. She has a 13-3 singles record at the No. 1 position, and when paired with Senior Lina Lileikite, the two of them would rank as the no. 17 doubles team in the nation. Stephanie would be the last one standing in the Hurricanes match against Ole Miss in the second round of the Tournament. After taking the first set 6-1, she would go down 3-5 in the second. It looked like a third set would be necessary, but Wagner moved into second gear, rattling off 4 straight games, and taking the straight set victory 6-1, 7-5. The win would send her team into the Sweet 16 for the 10th consecutive year.
In the no. 2 singles spot is the freshman out of Ireland, Sinead Lohan. Sinead would also earn All-ACC honors, placing 10th in the voting to make the second team. Lohan is the first player in Hurricanes history to be selected ACC Freshman of the Year; a sizeable accomplishment on a team with such history. Sinead currently sits as the #37-ranked singles player in the country in singles and with her partner, Wendy Zhang, possess a 9-4 record in doubles. In the first round of the Championship, against North Florida, Lohan downed her opponent 6-1, 6-1 and was the first player off the court. Against Ole Miss she routed her opponent 6-1, 6-3 and would, again, be the first one off the court. Her explosive play was too much for them to handle.
But wait, there’s more! the Hurricanes have a total of 5 nationally-ranked players compared to the Tarheels’ 4: #11 Wagner, #37 Lohan, #83 Clementina Riobueno, #108 Wendy Zhang, #115 Lina Lileikite. And in a best-of-seven match like those played in College tennis, the #2 team can fall at any time… like today at 10am against the Miami Hurricanes.
For more on your favorite Florida college tennis teams follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis. GO TEAM!
Florida Representin’ In The NCAA Championship
4 teams from the state of Florida entered Round Two of the NCAA Championship on Saturday with 3 teams moving on to the Sweet 16. On the Women’s side we have the University of Florida Gators and the Miami University Hurricanes. On the Men’s side we have the Florida State University Seminoles and the University of South Florida Bulls. Four teams ranked throughout the year, two of them hosting regional matches, one of them winning their Conference Championship.
Let’s start with the bad news. I started by saying 3 out of 4 teams made it to the Sweet 16, so who missed the cut.? It saddens me to say that the Florida State Seminoles were knocked out in less-than-glorious fashion by the Georgia Bulldogs, 0-4.
Here’s the promo the Seminoles put out following their loss to the Bulldogs. Not sure if I would have made such a big deal out of such an embarrassing loss. But, anyway. The Seminoles now move into the off-season where Juniors Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez were selected to compete in the 2015 NCAA Div I Men’s Tennis Championship. Lock will compete in singles while Lock and Nunez will compete in doubles. Good luck!
Now for the good news!
The University of Florida Gators women’s team played host to Georgia Tech on Saturday, but could learn a thing or two about hospitality, dismissing the Yellow Jackets 4-0 to move into the Sweet 16. For the #5-ranked team in the nation, this match was never in doubt. The Gators won the doubles 2-0 thanks to the gritty play of Josie Kuhlman/Belinda Woolcock and Brooke Austin/Kourtney Keegan. Both matches lasted less than an hour with the final scores of 8-2 and 8-5, respectively. Spencer Liang and Peggy Porter were close to finishing their opponents when the outcome was determined.
In the singles, the Gators took the first set on 5 out of 6 courts. Securing the finish for UF would be Belinda Woolcock, Brianna Morgan, and Josie Kuhlman. Brooke Austin, and Kourtney Keegan were in the lead when the outcome was determined. According to Head Coach Roland Thornqvist: “Our doubles play was just exceptional all weekend. …I was very pleased to see that we were the aggressive team. If we weren’t, things could’ve been a little hairy… because their [Georgia Tech] No. 3 team has been on fire.” In singles, “Belinda [Woolcock] was just outstanding, as she was off the court right away (1:09) that certainly helped our momentum. We are playing, in my mind, the best tennis we have played all year and that’s certainly coming at a great time.”
The Florida Gators now travel to Waco, Tx to face Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16. The Cowgirls are 22-5 on the season and 7-2 in the Big 12, a very tough conference. Florida, however, is advancing to the Round of 16 for the 32nd time in team history. They are 28-3 in the Sweet 16, 24-4 in the Elite 8, 13-11 in the Final Four, and 6-7 in the Championship match, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. GO GATORS!
The University of Miami Hurricanes had a more difficult time in their Regional match against Ole Miss on Saturday. It started with the Hurricanes dropping the doubles point 2-0. The pairings of Sinead Lohan/Stephanie Wagner and Monique Albuquerque/Silvia Fuentes would both fall 8-4 to Ole Miss before Lina Lileikite/Wendy Zhang could finish their match. Lileikite/Zhang were leading 7-5. Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews “The job at that moment is calm them down, get then focused, get them on target, get them believing in themselves, and put it behind them.” Which is what they did.
In singles, Miami would need ‘all hands on deck’ to pull out the win. Freshman Sinead Lohan would be the first to finish downing her opponent 6-1, 6-3. The score is tied at 1-1. Miami would take a 2-1 lead thanks to a win by Senior Monique Albuquerque, 6-4, 6-1. Ole Miss would get a win over Lina Lileikete evening the score at 2-2. The next match to finish would be a Miami win thanks to Freshman Wendy Zhang, 6-2, 6-3. Miami now leads 3-2. But Ole Miss would tie it up again with a win over freshman Silvia Fuentes. Which means it all comes down to court #1, and the Junior from Amberg, Germany, Stephanie Wagner. Wagner had taken the first set handily, 6-1, but her opponent decided to show up for the second, keeping things close the entire time, holding serve and even taking a 5-3 lead. Stephanie would need a break of her own to keep things from getting out of hand. And she would do just that, winning 4 games in a row, and finishing her opponent 7-5 in the second, giving the Miami Hurricanes the 4-3 victory and a berth in the Sweet 16. The Hurricanes are now 3-1 when dropping the doubles point this season.
Up next for the ‘Canes are the #2-seeded and #2-ranked team in the nation, the North Carolina Tarheels. This could be a tall order as the ‘Heels are 28-1 this season, 14-0 in the ACC, and beat the Hurricanes 5-2 on April 4. Keep your fingers crossed!
Rounding out the Top 3 are the University of South Florida Bulls who would down Virginia Tech, 4-0, to make it to the Sweet 16. As simple as it sounds, the win would not come easy. Roberto Cid and Ignacio Gonzalez-Muniz would win their doubles match, 8-3, but the pairing of Sasha Gozun/Vadym Kalyuzhnyy would need a tie break to take the set 8-3. Oliver Pramming and Justin Roberts would not finish, but were behind 6-7 when the doubles point was decided. “Virginia Tech has very good doubles, especially No. 1 and No. 2. I thought our guys did a great job of playing smart and competing really well throughout” Head Coach Matt Hill would say afterwards.
In singles, Justin Roberts would step up to take the first point with a crushing 6-0, 6-2 defeat of his VT opponent. The freshman from the Bahamas has continued to perform following his contribution to the Bulls’ second straight AAC Championship. Vadym Kalyuzhnyy would be the next to finish his opponent with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) tiebreak win. The sophomore from Ukraine had been a major contributor to the Bulls’ success all season long. And rounding out the top 4 for the Bulls is Sasha Gozun, the sophomore from Moldova, who would need three sets to finish his opponent, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. The win marks the first time in program history the USF Bulls have made it to the NCAA Round of 16, and are booking their trip to Waco, Tx for the Championships.
Up next for the Bulls are the #2-seeded and #2-ranked team in the nation, the Baylor Bears, who will be hosting the NCAA Championship on their home courts. Talk about “home field” advantage. The bears are 23-5 on the season, 4-1 in the Big 12, and would lose to Oklahoma in their Conference Championship. On the other hand, the USF Bulls won their second Conference Championship in dominating fashion, and are now on a 7-game win streak. Can #19 defeat #2, we’ll find out May 14 at 8pm.
For more on your favorite Florida College tennis teams, follow us on Twitter @aateamtennis.
For the 20th season in a row, the University of Miami Hurricanes Women’s tennis team enters the NCAA Championship. They will face the University of North Florida Ospreys on Friday, May 8, at 2pm. The Ospreys were unranked in 2015 while the Hurricanes finished the season at #15 in the nation. Coming into the first round of the Championship, the Hurricanes received a very favorable draw and are expected to survive the weekend without a problem.
One of the players to watch this weekend is Senior Monique Albuquerque. Monique would lead the Hurricanes in dual match victories with 27; 13 in singles and 14 in doubles when paired with Clementina Riobueno, her partner for the past 3 years. But this would come as a surprise to everyone considering Albuquerque graduated last year with a degree in Economics and a 3.8 GPA. She even went through Senior Day festivities last year.
But after some soul-searching, and long discussions with her family in Brazil, Monique would decide to return to the U for her last year of eligibility. “I felt like I had some personal and team goals that I didn’t accomplish… and I really wanted to give it a try again. Also, the opportunity to come and get a master’s is something that you don’t have every day. It was the right choice.”
That would appear to be the case as Albuquerque has led the very young Hurricanes to a 16-6 record, 12-2 in the ACC, and currently sit at #15 in the nation. But she did not do it alone.
Also graduating this year, Senior Lina Lileikite would compile a record of 10-4 in singles and 12-4 in doubles when paired with Junior Stephanie Wagner. Lina came to Miami from Latvia and would immediately begin taking on honors. As a freshman, sophomore, and junior she would receive All-ACC Academic Team honors. In her sophomore year she would be named ACC Tournament MVP during the Hurricanes run to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship. And in her junior year she would receive Third Team All-ACC honors on their way to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Do the Hurricanes have what it takes to make it out of the Sweet 16 this season? Because this is where they could face the #2 team in the nation, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. We’ll find out beginning this Friday, May 8, at 2pm at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center in Coral Gables, Florida.
Picture says a thousand words, doesn’t it?
On Saturday April 18, All American Team Tennis traveled to Coral Gables to watch the Hurricanes/Seminoles women’s tennis match. It was a great day to play unless you were one of the Seminole players who lost 5-2 in a match that wasn’t very close. But that’s to be expected when #73 goes up against #16, right? Well, on Thursday, April 24, less than 7 days later, the Hurricanes and Seminoles would meet again… but this time in the quarterfinals of the ACC Championship in Cary, NC.
The Hurricanes entered the ACC tournament as the #2 seed and would receive a bye on Thursday while the Seminoles took the Fighting Irish all the way to the 7th, and final, match of the day with a 6-4 win in the third set. Thanks to senior Mia Vriens’ steely nerves, the #10 seed Florida State Seminoles would survive to fight another day. Unfortunately, their next opponent would be the team who beat them the previous week, 5-2.
The Seminoles would be facing the Hurricanes for the third time this season, having lost the first two. Would the third be any different?
In the round of doubles, on Court 2, Seminoles Emily Fanning and Gabriella Castaneda would make easy work of the Hurricanes taking the set 8-2. Courts 1 and 3 would be a bit more challenging as Hurricanes Sinead Lohan and Stephanie Wagner would need a tiebreak to down the Seminoles 8-7 (3) leaving the doubles point in the hands of the players on Court 3. And it would be Mia Vriens and Carrie Cartwright taking the doubles point for the Seminoles with an 8-6 win. The Seminoles lead 1-0 on the day.
Next up… singles. Stephanie Wagner easily defeated her opponent with a quick 6-2, 6-2 win for the Hurricanes on court 1. The score is tied 1-1
On court 5 Lina Lileikite would also make things look easy defeating her opponent 6-2, 6-2. Hurricanes lead 2-1.
On court 4, Gabriella Castaneda of Florida State managed to secure the lead over her opponent to take her court by a score of 6-3, 6-4. The score is tied at 2-2.
On court 6, Seminole Emily Fanning would be quick to follow her teammate downing the Hurricane player 6-4, 6-4. Seminoles lead 3-2.
On court 2, the Hurricanes would need a second set tiebreak to down the Seminoles. And thanks to a 6-4, 7-6(4) win by Sinead Lohan, the score is once again tied at 3-3 meaning the winner of court #3 will take their team into the next round of the Playoffs.
Yukako Noi of the #73 Seminoles would need a tiebreak in the first set to take it 7-6(5). Clementine Riobueno would come roaring back to take the second set 6-1. But it would not last as Noi took the early lead in the third and deciding set and would not look back finishing by a score of 6-2.
The scene of the Seminoles celebrating Noi’s victory closely resembled that of Vrien’s victory the previous day. The Seminoles appeared genuinely excited to make it as far as they have in the ACC Championship given the ups and downs of the regular season.
“This team is on a mission,” head Coach Jennifer Hyde said. “They are taking things one day at a time right now. Yesterday we depended on three different kids to clinch all of the singles points and today we had three completely different spots step up and win today. It speaks to the depth and the confidence we have in every single position on this team.”
Next up for the 10-seeded Seminoles are the 6-seeded Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. This match will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
For more information on Florida College Tennis, follow All American Team Tennis on Twitter @aateamtennis and like the official Facebook page.
New to the Miami Hurricanes roster for the 2015 season, Dane Dunlap signs a National Letter of Intent on Tuesday. Head coach Mario Rincon announced “We are very excited to have signed Dane to the incoming class. Dane’s power and athleticism will add a lot to our team in singles and doubles play.” At the Junior level, Dane became the 25th best player in Canada in singles and #21 in doubles. Originally from Washago, Ontario, Canada and only 17 years old, Dane could potentially contribute from the start, stepping in for departing seniors Wilfredo Gonzalez and Henrique Tsukamoto.
The Hurricanes roster is full of young talent, with 7 out of the 10 roster spots taken by freshman, which could explain their recent difficulties. The Hurricanes started the season ranked #52, thanks to a strong finish to the 2014 season, and would fall out of the rankings in mid February. But as this team continues to mature things can only get better.
One of the things I hear more than anything else when I invite people to play tennis is: I don’t think I’m ready for that, yet. It’s almost as if they are afraid of tennis. Can this be true? I find it strange, when you consider how complicated other sports can be with all of the moving parts. Every player has to be in the right spot, every player has a specific job to do, and if one player is out of position or does the wrong thing, it creates a domino effect. Contrast that with tennis where we don’t have specific assignments or run plays, where there’s only one person on the court, and that one person is in total control of what they do. Tennis is so simple, I’m surprised more people would rather play ice/roller hockey! Why is that?
Sports like hockey and football understand the value of the Team. Not only do the players on a football team need the other players to block, pass, and catch, they need each other for other reasons: support, community, camaraderie. The players they play with become their friends because they have something in common, something they share. in many cases, the parents and officials become friends because THEY have something in common, too. It is the shared experience that creates community, and what is life without friends?
Unfortunately, tennis does not share this same spirit of community because every player is an opponent. Yes, players often train together at the same facility, but when they travel to a tournament, partners become opponents. And that kind of consistent opposition can strain a friendship ultimately leading to tennis players having very few friends. Most people can be friends with people that are kind to them, but on the field of competition the other person’s objective is to see you lose. How long can a relationship last when the only thing you have in common is a desire to see the other person fail? And in many cases, this feeling of isolation is too much for players, to where they decide not to play anymore.
There is a solution. There is an answer to the demise of our sport. There is a way to keep players playing and we see it in High Schools, Colleges, and (believe it or not) in every tennis club across the country; and it’s called the ‘Tennis Team’. The Team is a container that is big enough to hold every player who wants to play. The Team is great for new players because they are not required to carry the team. The team is good for more experienced players because they now have an audience that appreciates their talents. The Team fills in the gaps of the human experience that individual sports leave behind. And if tennis were a team sport at the Professional level it would bring greater notoriety to a sport that could desperately use the attention. That is what we are here to do: make a big deal out of an otherwise ignored sport. Stay tuned for more.
The final game of the Regular Season for the Miami Hurricanes Mens tennis team was, on paper, a very tall order for the Hurricanes to fill. Going up against the #4-ranked Virginia Cavaliers is always a date you circle on the calendar. But the ‘Canes would not be able to turn around their recent losing streak for this match, losing by a score of 5-2. There were, however, 2 bright spots in Sunday’s match: in the final home game of his college career, Wilfredo Gonzalez would win his singles match in dominating fashion by a score of 6-2, 6-2. “On my Senior Day I wanted to play smarter and more focused than in any other match,” said Gonzalez. “I just wanted to get out of here with good momentum and good feelings and I wanted people to see how good I can be.”
Also scoring a victory for the ‘Canes, freshman Christian Langmo would defeat the #4-ranked singles player Ryan Shane. After dropping the first set, Langmo would recover in the next two to take the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. “It feels really good to play my best tennis at the end of the season,” said Langmo. “Virginia is one of the deepest teams in the country and it feels really good.”
Also being recognized on Senior Day was Henrique Tsukamoto.
The Hurricanes now travel to to North Carolina for the ACC Tournament seeded #12 and will face the #5 seed, Duke, on Thursday, April 23.
On Saturday April 18, Coach Ken took his players to Coral Gables to watch the Miami Hurricanes host the Florida State Seminoles women tennis team. This would be the third field trip of the season but the first time we would see the Hurricanes play.
The Hurricanes are currently sitting at #16 in the rankings while the Seminoles are #70. We would arrive just after the doubles wrapped up, where the Seminoles would jump out to a 1-0 lead thanks to the pairings of Daneika Borthwick and Yukako Noi on court 1, and Mia Vriens and Kerrie Cartwright on court 3.
But Miami has 4 ranked singles players on its roster and would take 5 out of 6 courts thanks to the efforts of Stephanie Wagner, Sinead Lohan, Silvia Castaneda, Lina Lileikite, and Monique Albuquerque. Miami finished the match by a score of 5-2 making it their third win in a row.
Next up for the Hurricanes are the Pitt Panthers, a match that should be no problem for the #16 team in the nation.