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#TGW: The Closers

March 16, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Closing an opponent out is never easy, whether be it getting the final three outs of a baseball game or winning the set that clinches the doubles point.

So finding the person or persons with ability to close is a big deal.

No. 20 Georgia Tech Women’s Tennis (6-4, 3-2) appears to have found its closers in its No. 3 team of Rasheeda McAdoo and Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer.

McAdoo and Anton-Ohlmeyer are red hot, as heading into today’s match at Maryland (5-6, 1-5), they are unbeaten in their last six matches, winning three and being ahead in the others when they were halted. All three wins clinched the doubles point and were done on the road against quality opposition — at No. 27 Tennessee, at No. 34 Florida State, and at No. 45 Boston College on Friday night. They’ll get a chance to do add another road clincher today against the Terps, who have lost six of their last seven matches — four of them at love — and three straight at home.

To show the importance of the doubles point, Georgia Tech is 5-1 when winning the doubles point — their first loss coming in the marathon 4-3 loss Friday night against B.C. — while they are 1-3 when they lose it. Maryland has won the doubles point once in ACC play (1-5), their sole conference win, over Pittsburgh.

With the nation’s second-ranked doubles teams of Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard playing at No. 1, Yellow Jackets Head Coach Rodney Harmon knows he can usually expect to simply need a split from his No. 2 and 3 teams to get that point. The strong play of McAdoo and Anton-Ohlmeyer greatly increases the odds of Tech drawing first blood.

“Obviously, our No. 1 team is quite good,” said Harmon. “So we just have to make sure our other teams are able to be successful and be competitive at the second and third spot.”

They have been just that, with the team of Natasha Prokhnevska and Muriel Wacker playing solidly at two, and McAdoo-Anton-Ohlmeyer acting as insurance in the third spot.

Harmon’s belief in McAdoo and Anton-Ohlmeyer is understandable. They’re the signature of his first recruiting class at Georgia Tech.

“[Anton-Ohlmeyer] was the first player that we recruited and signed,” said Harmon. “She really was the one that got it rolling. When we signed her, that was two blue-chippers back-to-back, No. 5 (McAdoo) and No. 12. So we were fortunate.”

Fortunate perfectly describes how Harmon feels about landing McAdoo. While he had coached her in juniors in Florida and had a very good relationship with her parents, especially her dad, former NBA great and current Miami Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo, Harmon still had to sweat the possibility of her going to North Carolina, Bob’s alma mater. Fortunately for Harmon and the Tech program, Rasheeda chose to create her own legacy in Atlanta rather than follow her dad’s in Chapel Hill.

“Obviously we had to sweat that one out,” he said. “I really didn’t have to worry about Duke because if you like North Carolina you don’t like Duke. It’s like if you like Georgia Tech you probably don’t like Georgia. I didn’t find out that she wanted to come to Georgia Tech until the night before signing day.”

After finishing going 6-5 in the fall, but ending on a two-match winning streak, the pair stumbled coming out of the gate in the spring, losing their first four matches. Then after being switched for the Old Dominion match, they were reunited for Tennessee and haven’t lost since.

Their chemistry, which has been there since they first met, and their games are blending well again.

“We didn’t really meet each other before coming to Georgia Tech but we hit it off,” said McAdoo. “She was really friendly and that really caught me off-guard because not a lot of people become friends so quickly.”

The 5-6 Anton-Ohlmeyer also caught the 5-11, power-hitting McAdoo off-guard on the court.

“What really surprised me was she does hit hard and with a lot of top spin, which puts pressure on our opponents, she said. “Because of that top spin it really jumps up, so they have a hard time returning the ball.”

Anton-Ohlmeyer, an Aliso Viejo, Calif., native credits her improved strength, something, she’s worked on extra hard since her final year at Dana Hills high school, when she jumped from 80th in the country to 12th. That power led Harmon to draw a comparison to San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum for the power she generates from her slight frame.

“Obviously, it was a lot of time on the court but I spent twice as much time off the court training and doing a lot of explosive movements and really building up my strength,” she said. “I’ve always had a fast arm and a live arm but I wanted to increase it just that little bit more to give me that edge because, obviously, I’m not the biggest player around. I have to have that extra quickness and that extra strength to be able to compete at the same level or even higher.”

Having the fiery McAdoo as a partner also helps.

“She has that extra bit of fire,” said Anton-Ohlmeyer. “She will come up with really big shots and big returns at key moments. It definitely helps when we’re playing bigger opponents, to apply more pressure because she’ll do it right back and kind of terrify the opponent when they’re at net.”

Anton-Ohlmeyer has noticed vast improvement in her doubles game since teaming with McAdoo.

“I absolutely love singles and I’m starting to love doubles just as much as I’m getting more information and what to do in certain situations,” she said. “I’m not necessarily a doubles master so it’s a big learning process for me but I’m very good with if you give me direction I will follow it.”

“I think just purely playing my game style definitely helped,” she added. “Just more of a fast-paced, heavy-ball kind of game, where I move my opponent around and using basic patterns, things that really do the trick.”

McAdoo and Anton-Ohlmeyer plan to continue doing things that really do the trick, and continue winning that doubles point.

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