Nov. 5, 2013
THE FLATS – The #26-ranked doubles pair of Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard will attempt to make Georgia Tech women’s tennis history again this week as they travel to compete in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y from Nov. 7-Nov. 10.
Just two weeks ago, the sophomore tandem did something that a Georgia Tech doubles team had never done before – won the ITA/USTA Southeast Regional Doubles Title.
The Journey to NYC
Before winning the Southeast Regional Doubles title to punch their ticket to NYC, Kurey and Woodard’s path to the national indoor championship began this summer. The duo won two ITA summer tournaments – one at Alabama and one at Indiana. The Indiana victory secured Kurey and Woodard a trip to Pacific Palisades, Calif. for the 2013 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships in the beginning of October.
“Kendal and I did really well last spring and we wanted to continue that this summer,” Kurey said. “We played a couple of tournaments, one in Alabama and one in Indiana. We won both of them and we just wanted to bring that momentum into the fall. We were working really hard before California and right before regionals. We are really looking forward to doing the same at the national indoors.”
At the All-American Championships, the tandem fell in the doubles main draw to #15 Whitney Kay and Caroline Price of UNC. Kurey and Woodard then defeated three-straight ranked opponents to make it to the consolation bracket finals, including two opponents ranked in the top five, #2 Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia of Georgia and #4 Hermon Brhane and Whitney Ritchie of Oklahoma. The pair fell to #3 Brooke Bolender and Emina Bektas of Michigan in the finals. The winner of the consolation bracket received an automatic bid to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
After just missing out on the automatic bid to the national indoor championships, the duo continued to work hard, preparing for the ITA/USTA Southeast Regional Championships, which would be held at the University of Georgia Oct. 18-21. Kurey and Woodard defeated four-straight opponents to advance to the doubles finals and face #50 Lauren Herring and Maho Kowase of Georgia. Kurey and Woodard cruised to an 8-2 victory, winning the first-ever regional doubles title for Georgia Tech women’s tennis.
“It was a good feeling,” Woodard said. “When we go there, you are always ready for great competition. It was. We played pretty good and we won.”
The regional championship secured the two a bid to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships where they will compete against the top competition in the nation. This prestigious event features a 32-player singles draw and a 20-team doubles draw for men and women.
“It’s great for our program,” head coach Rodney Harmon said. “I think it shows that the girls have come into Georgia Tech and they have developed. In their sophomore year, they have put together a great first half of their season. They are on their way to getting All-American status and hopefully they will play very, very well in New York. I am pretty excited for them.”
It’s no secret the reason that Woodard and Kurey work so well together on the court is their chemistry.
“I think we work well because we have known each other for a very long time,” Woodard said. “We hang out every day. When we are on the court, we know which shot each other is going to hit. We are ready to move and do different things. That’s why we work so well together.”
Overall this fall, Woodard and Kurey are 10-4 in doubles and 4-3 against nationally ranked opponents. Last season, the two led the Jackets with a 24-6 overall record, going 20-3 in dual match play. They played at the No. 1 spot, going 14-3 in 2012-13 and finished the season ranked at #60.
“Kendal and I have really good chemistry on and off the court,” Kurey said. “We are really close friends. On the court, we know the game so well we just have confidence in each other that we are going to do the right things and get done what we need to get done.”
“They are individually, very good doubles players by themselves,” Harmon said. “I think putting them together, they just mesh well together. Megan is very steady and very consistent. She makes a lot of balls and plays a lot of angles. She has a great back hand and a great back hand return. Kendal is really the thumper and the finisher. She has a big serve and she crosses. Basically, Megan sets her up and Kendal finishes. On every great doubles team, you need a setup and a finisher.”
While the trip to New York is a result of hard work, it is also a dream come true for the sophomore duo. For Kurey, she gets to return to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where she once sat in the stands watching the U.S. Open.
“It’s really exciting and it means a lot to go,” Kurey said. “I have been there in the audience watching the U.S. Open. Being able to play there is just really exciting and is every tennis player’s dream. We are really looking forward to it.”
This will be Woodard’s second trip to NYC, but first to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
“It really means a lot because I’ve never been there,” Woodard said. “I’m pretty excited to go up there and play, and see all the sights and be a tourist. All the matches are going to be good matches because there are top players there. We have to be ready to go once we get up there.”
The Billie Jean King Tennis Center is home to Arthur Ashe Stadium. While the participants at the national indoors will not play at Arthur Ashe Stadium, they will attend a banquet there and get the chance to see the historical venue.
“I’m excited that the girls will get up to New York and go to the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, who is one of my heroes,” Harmon said. “Then they will get the chance to tour the Arthur Ashe Stadium. It’s the largest tennis stadium in the world. They will hopefully have a great time in New York.”
Harmon has a unique connection to Arthur Ashe, one of the most prominent tennis players of all time.
“I grew up in Richmond, Va., Arthur’s hometown,” Harmon said. “Arthur’s father was a policeman at the park where I grew up. Arthur grew up basically a couple of blocks from where I grew up. I knew him throughout my junior, collegiate and pro career. He helped me all along the way. He’s been a mentor to me and someone I have always looked up to. He is one of my real heroes.”
Follow the Yellow Jackets
Follow the Georgia Tech women’s tennis blog as it follows Megan and Kendal’s trip here. Make sure to follow Coach Ali Silverio on Twitter, @GT_CoachAli, for exclusive information on the trip and throughout the season.