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The Pow, Pow, Power of Positive Thinking

Jan. 30, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Next Match: Saturday, noon, vs. Old Dominion at Ken Byers Tennis Complex.

People walking around the Georgia Tech campus with a frown or maybe even just without a smile, should not be alarmed if a young, enthusiastic woman, about 5-11 in height, possibly wearing a Georgia Tech Tennis shirt, comes up and offers to give them a high-five.

It’s only freshman tennis player Rasheeda McAdoo. She means no harm. She just wants to share her positive vibes.

“It’s like cheering on someone that’s probably having a hard day,” McAdoo said. “All of a sudden, this stranger comes up to you and high-fives you. It would definitely make up my day.

“I have actually done it,” she added, with a laugh. “I just walk up to the first person who I pass and high-five them. They’re happy to do it.”

Those standing on the opposite side of the net from McAdoo aren’t as pleased to receive an overhead from her.

Players on No. 11 Michigan, No. 35 Ole Miss, and No. 59 South Florida, learned how that felt two weeks ago, while No. 25 University of Nebraska, and No. 16 Vanderbilt got a taste of it last weekend.

On Saturday afternoon, it’s Old Dominion’s turn, as the undefeated Lady Monarchs (3-0) visit the Ken Byers Tennis Complex to take on 19th-ranked Yellow Jackets (1-1). The match begins at noon.

McAdoo plans to continue blistering the ball all over the court the way she did during the fall, two weeks ago at the Michigan Invitational, and at last weekend’s ITA Kickoff Weekend. Two weeks ago in Ann Arbor, she won two of three singles matches playing at No. 2 — all three matches requiring tie-breakers — and won her final doubles match on Sunday. Last Sunday, she played valiantly but dropped a tough three-setter (3-6, 6-0, 0-1, falling in a 10-5 tiebreaker) to Vandy’s Georgia Sellyn, the nation’s 48th-ranked amateur, in singles (her Saturday match was unfinished). In doubles, McAdoo and partner Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer fell in a pair of hard-fought doubles matches, 4-6 on Saturday, 7-5 on Sunday.

But wins and losses aren’t the sole gauge of how McAdoo — or the Yellow Jackets, who beat No. 25 Nebraska, but lost to No. 16 Vanderbilt — played at the ITA.

“She’s a tremendous athlete and a tremendous student of the game and wants to get better so badly,” said Jackets coach Rodney Harmon. “When you put them together, those factors coming together, she’s going to bring a reasonably good performance, I think, all the time. Some days she’s going to be pretty special out there.”

Harmon knows McAdoo and her game as well as anyone, having coached her in juniors in Florida and having a long-standing relationship with the McAdoo family, especially her dad, former NBA pro, and North Carolina Tar Heel alum Robert McAdoo. He’s positive about what he’s seen and that attitude has rubbed off on Rasheeda, who likes the direction she’s headed early on.

“I think what has worked is pretty much my backhand and my serve,” she said. “It helped me a lot to get through the matches and, I guess, just staying positive. I’ve been working on my serve and volleys, and just dictating the points and starting strong.”

McAdoo hopes that her first spring season can go as well her first fall, when she won seven of her last eight singles matches and her last two doubles contests with Anton-Ohlmeyer, with whom she finished 6-5.

She likes her chemistry with Anton-Ohlmeyer, a deceptively hard hitter out of her slight 5-6 frame.

“During the matches we’re probably the most positive team on the Georgia Tech tennis team,” said McAdoo. “That probably pumps up the other girls and it just helps that I have a good partner on the baseline or at the net.

“What really surprised me was she does hit hard and with a lot of top spin, which puts pressure on our opponents and, because of that top spin, it really jumps up, so they have a hard time returning the ball,” said McAdoo of Anton-Ohlmeyer. “That gives me the incentive of just poaching and just putting away the ball at net, which really helps our game.”

“We encourage each other and we kind of feed off of one other,” said Anton-Ohlmeyer. “She has that extra bit of fire. 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.”

Harmon played McAdoo and Anton-Ohlmeyer — coincidentally, two blue-chippers, ranked No. 7 and No. 37 in the country out of high school were the first recruits Harmon signed as Yellow Jackets coach — together in Lincoln but hasn’t ruled out splitting up the duo up as he searches for the right combinations.

“It’s based on what combinations work the best for us,” he said. “Obviously, Rasheeda and [sophomore] Natasha [Prokhnevska] played very well together and she also plays very well with [senior] Muriel [Wacker]. We’ll just have to see which one works out the best and make a decision. Obviously, our No. 1 team (National Indoor champions Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard) is quite good. So we just have to make sure our other teams are able to be successful and be competitive at the second and third spot.”

This weekend will be an interesting test for the entire Yellow Jackets squad, which got a boost last weekend, with the return of Kurey, who, with Woodard, won both doubles matches, was 1-0 in singles and was leading in her other match which was unfinished. The Jackets are only a couple of weeks away from the start of ACC play.

McAdoo is excited about watching the team continue to grow up together.

“We are a strong team even though we’re just starting to build up right now,” she said. “But growing up through these next three years together will probably give us a lot of confidence.”

That could mean a lot of random high-fives.

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