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It's All About the Team

April 27, 2005

by Cheryl Watts – After posting a 5-7 singles record and going just 5-4 in doubles play in the fall, Lyndsay Shosho wasn’t looking forward to the 2005 spring season as a part of the Georgia Tech women’s tennis team.

In fact, after repeatedly having to answer what had happened to her game, the junior was beginning to think that it wasn’t worth dealing with all of the questions.

“I was at a point where I almost didn’t care how the team did,” said Shosho.

And then February and March came along, with some key matches for the Yellow Jackets against a few of the nation’s top teams in Alabama, Rice, Harvard, Vanderbilt, Clemson and South Alabama.

Against the Crimson Tide, which is currently ranked 36th in the nation, Shosho battled through a three-set match with Maria Muller to clinch a 4-3 victory for Georgia Tech, helping the Yellow Jackets remain undefeated at 4-0 on the season.

The next day, she downed Rice’s Christine Dao by a 6-4, 6-4 margin to clinch another match victory for the Yellow Jackets. At the time, the Owls were ranked 39th in the nation and still stand among the country’s top-50 teams.

“Slowly I began to realize that I am a part of a team,” said Shosho, “and it’s not just about me. I was learning that I have a role to fill and I had made a commitment to the team.”

“It’s amazing to see the maturity and development of Sho over the past two years,” said Georgia Tech head coach Bryan Shelton. “When she arrived at Georgia Tech she came in very quiet, and I wondered if she had any fire at all. She certainly has become our best competitor, however, in a relatively short time.”

After a pair of losses to No. 18 Harvard and sixth-ranked Vanderbilt, the Yellow Jackets were ready for the tide to change heading to Clemson, a team that Tech was just 3-21 against and one that currently stands 12th in the nation in the polls.

The Jackets, on Clemson’s home court, came back after dropping the doubles point to win a 4-3 match against the reigning ACC Champions. The clincher? Shosho at the No. 5 position, with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Richele LeSaldo, of course.

“Our first huge match this season was Clemson,” said Shosho.

“We lost the doubles point, but our girls responded well,” added Georgia Tech head coach Bryan Shelton at the time of the match. “With our backs to the wall, we came out and fought hard.”

The next match, Georgia Tech hosted South Alabama, a team that was ranked No. 47 at the time and has moved up to No. 30 in the most recent rankings, and the Yellow Jackets had the same result: A victory, 5-2 this time, with the clinching match by none other than Shosho.

See a pattern yet?

In the very next match, Georgia Tech hit the road to face Wake Forest, currently ranked 27th in the nation, and NC State. With the Yellow Jackets down 3-1 in the match against the Demon Deacons and Shosho behind 5-3 in her second set after dropping a first-set tiebreaker, the East Amherst, New York native then began the Tech rally. She went to a second-set tiebreaker, in which she won, 7-4, and by the time she won her third set, 6-0, the match was tied at 3-3…making her match the clincher once again.

“I think that match, although it wasn’t pretty tennis, gave us a little boost in confidence knowing that when we are down, it’s not over,” said Shosho. “As a team, we can still get the job done if we keep fighting and fighting.”

“To see our team come back was just amazing to me,” added Shelton.

“That match, and of course beating Georgia [ranked second in the nation at the time], were huge wins for us,” said Shosho. Little by little and win after win, our confidence grows and grows and we get higher expectations of ourselves. We won’t settle for a loss when we know that we are capable of getting it done. Win after win, our goals have kept increasing.”

So much so that, following a loss against Vanderbilt in late February, the Yellow Jackets went 11-1 to close out the regular season, with the only hiccup coming against 16th-ranked Duke, a team that Tech has yet to record a victory against.

The Jackets earned the No. 1 seed heading into the ACC Championship, and would once again rely on the heroics of Shosho to get them to the finals.

In the quarterfinals, the Yellow Jackets fell behind early after dropping the doubles point, but then rallied with four quick singles victories, including the clinching 6-4, 6-1 win by Shosho over Tapiwa Marobela of Florida State, to advance to the semis against a strong North Carolina team.

The Tar Heels, ranked 13th in the nation, would also take a 1-0 lead heading into singles. With the match tied at 2-2, Kelly Anderson secured the third point for the Yellow Jackets at No. 3 singles, and Shosho came back after dropping her first set 3-6, to win the next two, 6-2, 6-3, and capture match point for Georgia Tech for the second-straight day.

With that match win, Shosho had earned the clinching point in nine of Georgia Tech’s 18 match victories leading up to the ACC Championship Final, with no other teammate clinching more than two matches during the season. She is one of three Yellow Jackets to record 25 singles victories this season and has a team-high 17 dual-match wins on the year.

“I would have hated leaving the tournament knowing that we could have done better or knowing that I didn’t give it everything that I had,” said Shosho. “So when I play, I like to know that I’ve given everything and I’m not going to settle for a loss when I know that I can pull it out. It may take awhile, and it may look ugly, but I can get it done. So I’ll do whatever it is going to take to make sure that I win.”

“Sho has realized her value to this team,” added Shelton, “and at the same time understands that sometimes you go through tough patches, but that you have to keep your head up and keep working with a good attitude. After questioning her purpose for most of the fall, she has decided to make the most of her opportunities and not take anything for granted.”

The Yellow Jackets would again come from behind to win, 4-3, against Miami, currently ranked ninth in the nation, in the championship game of the conference tournament, but would have never been there had it not been for the consistent play of Shosho throughout the season.

Georgia Tech will again be counting on the junior headed into NCAA play, and aside from its goals set prior to the season, the Yellow Jackets haven’t altered their focus as the season has progressed.

“We had initially set a goal to make it to the Sweet 16 [which would be a first in Georgia Tech women’s tennis history], and I think that everyone knows that we are capable of it, although it is going to be tough,” said Shosho. “When you get to No. 4 in the nation, there isn’t much room to move up, but I think that we are going to fight for every match and we are going to lay it on the line and know that however far we go, we have laid everything out there.”

And with Lyndsay Shosho as one of the leaders of this year’s squad, Tech fans can rest assured knowing that the team will do just that.

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