April 5, 2013
By Jon Cooper
It’s just the way the duo, long-time friends, long-time competitors and currently the top doubles team for Georgia Tech women’s tennis pictured it when they committed to the school.
Woodard, the 23rd ranked player nationally and fourth in Georgia coming out of high school, was a positive influence on Kurey, ranked 22nd and third, in coming to Georgia Tech.
“I saw that Kendal was going there and that definitely helped with my decision,” said Kurey, from Centennial High School in Alpharetta. “I was leaning toward Georgia Tech anyway, but knowing that Kendal was coming, how we were such close friends, and we could be great teammates, that definitely made my decision easier.”
“She actually called me right before she decided to commit and I told her if she came here it would be the best four years of her life,” recalled Woodard, ranked 23rd and fourth in Georgia, who committed first. “I thought it’s going to be great because not every one can come into school with other people like this. I have three more years with her, things will only get better.”
That’s hard to imagine, considering how things have gone thus far.
Following No. 27 Georgia Tech’s 4-0 loss to No. 1 North Carolina at Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center, the team of Kurey and Woodward, ranked No. 67 in the country, with a 17-5 record, 13-2 in dual play, and 4-1 in the ACC — their match with No. 42 Caroline Price and Whitney Kay was not concluded, with the score 7-8.
They’ve been as successful in singles. Woodard leads the team with 17 wins (her match with No. 43 Zoe De Bruycker was not completed with the score 2-6, 6-2), while Kurey, named ACC Player of the Week for the first week of March, is tied for second with fellow freshman Natasha Prokhnevska with 14 wins (both lost at UNC, Kurey falling 6-2, 6-2 to No. 33 Price, Prokhnevska losing 6-2, 6-4 to No. 25 Whitney Kay.)
The Jackets will stay on Tobacco Road, visiting No. 6 Duke this afternoon (the match begins at noon.
All this success has been a lot of fun and not really surprising to them as they complement each other perfectly.
“I think there’s a chemistry we have,” said Kurey. “We’re best friends on and off the court. We laugh on the court and we try to have fun. The way we get along helps us on the court. She has a massive serve and I can put balls away at the net and she’s all over. We complement each other’s game well. We can get mad at each other and then not be mad at each other after the match. So we have that going for us.”
“When we get out there, we know we need to be serious but also go out and enjoy it,” said Woodard, who grew up in Stockbridge. “[Our friendship] helps a lot because when someone messes up we’re not afraid to tell each other what we did wrong or what we need to do better so we can make the next shot. We can pretty much tell each other anything. So it’s great.”
What they bring to the table has not gone unnoticed.
“They complement each other very well,” said Head Coach Rodney Harmon. “Kendal has a big serve and covers a lot of court and Megan has great return skills, a great backhand, volleys extremely well, finishes very well and is tough around the net as well. The biggest thing is they get along very well. Their chemistry is excellent.”
“Megan and Kendal, although they’re freshmen, are playing line one doubles,” said senior captain Elizabeth Kilborn. “They’re rock solid at one. They have a lot of fun together and their chemistry’s great.”
Kurey and Woodard have had plenty of time to form their bond, as they’ve been playing since Under-10s. In fact, each player’s most memorable match growing up came against each other.
“In Macon, I believe it was the 16s in the State Qualifier,” said Kurey. “It was one of the longest matches I’ve probably ever played. It was 7-6, 6-7, 7-6. We both remember it so well. We always talk about that match. It was a very epic match.”
“I’ll never forget that match. It was the Macon Qualifier,” agreed Woodard. “All I can remember is I served amazing and I lost. It was a tough one because we both played great. It was a great match. I was upset that I lost but then I knew that I gave it my all. It kind of made the loss easier for me, but not really.”
Woodard still doesn’t take losing easy and has shown tremendous resilience, like on May 27 against No. 11 Northwestern at Byers Center. After losing, 8-6, in to NU’s team of Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton, the ninth-ranked team in the country, Woodard rebounded, bouncing Veronica Corning (ranked No. 96), 6-1, 6-0.
“After a tough doubles loss you have to get out there and get it going for singles,” Woodard said. “That’s exactly what I did.”
Kurey credited Woodard for jump-starting Tech, which rallied to win the match, 4-3. Kurey provided the clincher, topping Abu Mushrefova, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
“We had to forget about [the doubles loss] and go out and do well in our singles,” Kurey said. “Kendal won, 0 and 1, I think in like 30 minutes. She bounced back right away. I think that gave us all confidence, getting that one under our belt back that the rest of us could win our singles matches.”
Playing with the poise of upperclassmen as freshmen bodes well for the next three years and would be a dream come true for Harmon.
“It’s a great prospect for us because it’s important that you have experienced doubles teams,” said Harmon. “Together they’re a very, very potent team. They’re going to be very competitive against any of the other top teams around.”
“If they can continue to play the way they’re playing, I’m hoping that they’ll get an opportunity to qualify for the NCAAs as freshmen,” he added. “That would be amazing. Hopefully they make the NCAA Tournament and get that experience under their belt.”