April 2, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
If there is value in the present in knowing where you have come from and where you are going or plan to go, then Rodney Harmon as a keen grip.
The Georgia Tech women’s tennis coach has a tremendous background with the United States Tennis Association, which helped him sign a couple of the top 2013 recruits in the country.
Tech’s near present will include matches Friday at No. 1 North Carolina and Saturday at No. 6 Duke. Regardless of how No. 27 Tech fares, Harmon could barely contain himself the other day when talking about the future beyond Tobacco Road.
Freshmen Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard have combined to go 17-5 in doubles, and have played well in singles the the third wheel of what was considered one of the very finest four-member recruiting classes in the nation has stood out most.
The fourth wheel opted out after Shelton left for Gainesville, and landed at UCLA, but the Jackets are nontheless in fine fettle. Freshman Natasha Prokhnevska – with help from her fellow newbies and the rest of Tech’s roster – made that loss easier to forget.
“The player who has probably improved more than anybody is Natasha. Of the freshmen coming in, she was probably the least heralded,” Harmon said. “From where she was when she came in in the fall to where she is now is amazing. She started at No. 6 [singles], and she’s playing No. 3 and she’s played No. 2 on a couple occasions.
“At Georgia, she took the only set off Syliva Garcia, who hadn’t lost a set all season up to that point. She’s as tough as nails. The thing that makes her so good is whatever you ask her to do, whether it’s in a match or practice, she does it. She was our one point at Clemson, she was undefeated in the ITA in doubles and singles.”
Prokhnevska, who hails from Ukraine via several stops with the most recent being Wilmington, Del., doesn’t have gaudy numbers. But she’s got spunk, and in that she is far from alone.
“Kendal has a ceiling that is as high as the sky. Megan competes, and her backhand is one of the best in college tennis,” Harmond said. “Natasha is one of the toughest people. She’s a biochemical engineering major who does very well in school, and she just wants to be very good at everything she does.
“She gives you everything she has and she’s a tremendous teammate.”
That, in fact, may be the most important theme for the Jackets.
Elizabeth Kilborn, the team’s lone senior, “has done a phenomenal job as a senior captain,” the coach said. And junior Muriel Wacker and sophomore Jasmine Minor have pitched in as everybody has tried to cover for injured junior Alex Anghelescu.
“The thing I have to say about the freshmen is they are easily – because I’ve worked in women’s tennis at the USTA and privately – is they have to be among the lowest maintenance people that I’ve had to deal with,” Harmon said. “
“They get along so well, they are so tight, which helps a lot because team camaraderie is so good. They are tremendous building blocks. Those three, along with Muriel and the two players we have coming in give us a chance to have a great chance in the future.”
Those two players are a cut above.
Rasheeda McAdoo, the daughter of legendary NBA scorer Bob McAdoo, is a top 5 recruit in the country. She eschewed her father’s alma mater, North Carolina, in part because of her previous relationship with Harmon through the USTA.
And Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer of southern California , the daughter and grandaughter of significant sports television executives, has improved dramatically to where she is now considered a blue-chip prospect by the folks who rank tennis players.
“They’re both itching to come in and put the gold and white on and represent Georgia Tech. They’re constantly checking on our results,” Harmon said. “They came and met the three freshmen, and they all get along so well and they’re looking forward to competing in the ACC.”