March 15, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Megan Kurey believes that there’s no problem that a little hard work can’t fix and nothing that a lot of hard work can’t achieve.
Kurey proved that point last week, earning recognition as ACC Player of the Week.
“The way I was raised, I was always taught to work as hard as you can and you’ll achieve anything that you want to, anything you can believe in,” Kurey said. “That’s just what I’ve done.”
Last week she did just about everything right. She went 3-1, splitting her singles matches, including a spirited, come-from-behind three-set win over Florida State’s Francesca Segarelli, the 72nd-ranked player in the nation, and going 2-0 in doubles, playing at No. 1, with partner and good friend Kendal Woodard. Included in the doubles victory was an 8-5 win over Miami’s team of Stephanie Wagner and Lina Lileikite, the No. 43 team in the country.
“I think I’ve really improved over the whole year but mostly this semester,” she said. “I started out slow, I lost a couple of matches in a row, but then most recently we changed my forehand so I’ve been hitting it really well. I feel like overall as a team, we’ve all done better together and it’s really exciting to turn things around.”
The turnaround in matches came after hours of work in practice. But, it was not just doing hard work but the right hard work.
“When she’s won she can give you a clear picture as to why she won and things she needs to work on. If she’s lost she does the same thing, in a very calm, concise and pragmatic manner,” said women’s tennis coach Rodney Harmon. “She works methodically to try to get those things better. That’s all you want to do as a player and as a coach, identify the areas that need to be solidified and get out there and work on them. She’ll do what’s necessary to be able to put herself in position to improve in certain areas. That’s made a big difference for her.”
That difference is showing in the W’s that are starting to come in singles, where she enters play at 11-12, and in doubles, where she and Woodard are 14-4, 10-1 in dual matches.
While Kurey is learning how to win, learning how to work was never an issue. That was evident from the day she arrived on campus.
“Megan came in this summer as a freshman and was pretty quiet. it’s been fun to see her come out of her shell a little bit,” said senior captain Elizabeth Kilborn. “She just comes and works every day. She’s a quiet worker. You know that she’s going to give it her all every day. She loves to compete, and she’s really talented. She might not be the loudest or the feistiest player on the court but deep down inside she really wants to win. Megan is definitely very deserving of that Player of the Week award. I hope she just takes some confidence from it and runs with it and continues to get better and better.”
The win over Segarelli illustrated that desire. Kurey dropped the first set, 6-4, then cranked up her game, losing a total of three games in the final two sets, taking the decisive third set, 6-1.
“[Segarelli’s] an experienced player,” said Kilborn. “For Megan to come through and win that one convincingly in the second and third, the hard work is starting to pay off for her and it’s exciting to see. She’s stepped up huge for us in doubles, too. She and Kendal, although they’re freshmen, are rock solid at one.”
Kurey credited her teammates for helping her emerge from the 0-1 hole.
“The first set, I played pretty well. The girl is really good,” she recalled. “I was just looking around and realizing that everyone had a chance of winning their matches and we could do this. So after I lost the first set I just focused and knew that I had confidence in myself and believed that I could win the match and that my teammates could as well. I saw that Natasha [Prokhnevska], playing at 2, won and then Kendal, right next to me. I pretty much looked down and realized that it’s not just for me but for my team.”
As their confidence continues to grow, the No. 25 Yellow Jackets, winners of three of four in March, will face another test today, when they face No. 19 Notre Dame, which ended a brief two-match skid on Thursday, winning at UAB. The match begins at noon at the Ken Byers Tennis Complex.
It will be the second time they’ve seen the Fighting Irish this season, dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 match on ITA Kickoff Weekend back on January 26, at the Nebraska Tennis Center, in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Jackets know this time will be different, as they’ll be at home, not on a neutral site, and will be playing outdoors — although this actually will be Georgia Tech’s first match being played on the Byers Complex’s outdoor courts.
Harmon expects another very competitive, hard-fought match between the schools, which are long-time rivals and, next year, will be conference foes.
“We’re going to have to be prepared and it’s going to be a dogfight,” Harmon said. “I just hope that if it’s tight, this time, it goes on our side instead of their side. They played really well against us and deserved to win that match in Nebraska. If we’re going to have a shot to win against them here we’re going to have to play very, very well because they have some very talented players and they’re extremely well coached.”
Kilborn sees experience as a potential difference-maker in Tech’s favor this time.
“That was early in the season, our second match or third match,” she said. “It was the first time the freshmen were put in that situation of the match being on the line. How are we going to perform under that pressure? I think they’ve got a lot more experience now and a lot more confidence as well.”
Kurey is counting on the home crowd to make a difference as it did last Sunday.
“We had a really good crowd against Florida State and that definitely helped us,” she said. “So we hope for a big crowd on Saturday as well to get revenge on Notre Dame.”