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#TGW: Gathering Strength

May 12, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

– As the season ended Saturday, Georgia Tech’s women’s tennis team offered a summary statement for itself in a 4-2 loss to Vanderbilt in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The Yellow Jackets (14-10) were competitive against the No. 10 team in the nation at Vanderbilt (21-5), but some things didn’t go quite right.

A team comprised of two freshmen, three sophomores and senior Muriel Wacker sustained some losses during the school year that would count as strange for a team ranked No. 19 nationally.

The Jackets were blanked at Miami and by Georgia, and lost 6-1 to North Carolina, yet peaked with a 4-3 win over then-No. 1 Duke to end the regular season.

Simply put, he potential is there, yet perhaps a bit raw for sustained excellence.

Wacker and freshman Rasheeda McAdoo banked wins in singles play, but the Jackets were working from behind because they lost the doubles point to start.

This did not qualify as a strange loss inasmuch Vandy has been a high-quality team all season and the Commodores played host to the regional, and the Jackets were not routed.

Yet the match began in unsettling fashion as the team of sophomores Kendal Woodard and Megan Kurey – ranked No. 6 in the nation – struggled on the way to an 8-3 loss at No. 1 doubles to the No. 20 combination of Vandy’s Lauren Mira and Courtney Colton.

At No. 2 doubles, Wacker and sophomore Natasha Prokhnevska fell 8-2 to Vandy’s Frances Altick and Marie Casares.

“I would have to summarize the season as a roller coaster, but in a good way,” said Prokhnevska. “Obviously, when you lose there is going to be sadness … but I couldn’t be prouder that we competed and got this far.”

Indeed, the Jackets put together an impressive season with six players – the minimum a team can have without having to forfeit matches. That roster count will change upward in the fall.

Wacker wrapped up perhaps the most solid season on the team with her second consecutive NCAA win.

Her 6-3, 6-0 victory over Vandy’s Ashleigh Antal at No. 5 singles tied the team score at 1-1, and at the same time closed Wacker’s college career with a five-match winning streak.

Almost exclusively a doubles player in her first two seasons at Tech, the Swiss netter worked hard to develop her forehand the past two seasons and went 23-10 this school year. She won 11 of her last 12 matches and 14 of her last 16.

“We still have a young team,” head coach Rodney Harmon said. “We’ve got to kind of work our way back to where we want to be. Look at Muriel; she was a doubles player, and she won again today [in singles].”

If the younger Jackets develop as Wacker did over the course of her career, Tech figures to be an upper echelon team next season.

McAdoo’s 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) win over No. 103 Marie Casares at No. 3 singles may have been another sign of good things to come for the daughter of NBA legend Bob McAdoo.

“Rasheeda’s put herself in position to play,” Harmon said after McAdoo closed her freshman season with eight consecutive singles victories to finish 23-13.

The Jackets already are in the academic upper crust. The Tech women’s tennis team was recognized by the NCAA last week for being in the top 10 percent nationally in Academic Progress Rate.

Harmon is as proud of that as he is of anything that happens on the courts. “We had our highest GPA, 3.53, for a semester,” the coach said.

On the courts, expectations will rise next season when freshmen Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer and McAdoo, and sophomores Kurey, Woodard and Prokhnevska will have more company.

A few weeks ago, Johnnise Renaud signed a letter of intent to play for the Jackets. The south Florida native has been ranked the No. 3 recruit in the nation by the Tennis Recruiting Network, and will join Canadian Alexis Prokopuik and Vooha Vellanki of Norcross as Tech recruits.

Renaud and Prokopuik are five-star recruits, and Vellanki carries four stars.

“We’re going to have eight players, which is really what we need,” said Harmon, who still has a scholarship available with which to continue recruiting for the 2014-15 class. “We need that … we’re looking for these young women to come in and compete.”

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