Bearcats Lean On Numbers, Not Optimism|
Jan. 17, 2012
By Shawn Sell
Don't expect the UC Tennis team to make excuses. Despite opening the 2012 season this weekend with just six healthy players, head coach Angela Wilson and her charges will not let that affect their positive outlook entering the coming season.
Last season was another solid campaign for the Bearcats as they finished mid-pack in the BIG EAST with a 5-5 conference mark and a 10-16 overall record. The only two losses from the team were Ksenia Slynko (the team's No. 1 player most of the year) and Lindsey Lonergan, a middle of the line-up contributor. With a strong core of returnees back, the outlook for this spring looked good, until the injury bug bit the Bearcats. Lost for the entire season will be juniors Caitlin O'Gara and Elise Woulfe who combined to compete in 32 singles matches a year ago. Even with those losses, Wilson refuses to be anything but optimistic about the coming year.
"We have six players and that's all you need to play a match," Wilson says. "But we are going to be a little bit lean. We just have to try to stay healthy because we don't have a lot of wiggle room. The girls are playing hard and are excited about the season."
Much of Wilson's optimism centers on her top two returnees, junior Jasmine Lee and sophomore Ashleigh Witte. Lee had a phenomenal first year as a Bearcat after transferring from Iowa State, including a seven-match win streak in March. Playing predominately the No. 2 spot in the line-up, Lee finished last season with a 16-10 singles record and will likely slide into the top spot for the Bearcats this year.
Also a first-year competitor last season, Witte enjoyed a quality freshman season by going 15-10 in singles play, including an 8-1 mark in the No. 4 spot. Witte enters the new year as the probable No. 2 player in Wilson's regular line-up.
When it comes to experience, the squad's lone senior, Safiyya Ismail leads the way. Also the team captain, Ismail compiled a 10-7 mark last year and has looked much improved since the start of preseason practice according to Wilson.
The Bearcats will count on two new faces to the program this season as well. Sophomore Sierra Sullivan, all the way from Austin, Texas joins the team after a year at Stetson University where she turned in a sparkling 15-7 record. UC's other newcomer comes to Cincinnati from even further away. Bulgarian-born Christina Georgieva just recently joined the squad and will bring much needed depth to the roster. Sophomore Carly Wilson, daughter of head coach Angela, rounds out the Bearcat roster.
The season-opener for the Bearcats will be no small task as they will travel to Notre Dame, ranked 20th in the latest ITA National Rankings on Jan. 21st. In addition to an eight-match BIG EAST slate, UC will also take on preseason nationally ranked foes Marshall (No. 54) and Memphis (No. 68), along with regional rivals Indiana, Kentucky and Xavier, among others. One of the highlights of the docket comes the weekend of Feb. 24-26 when the Western Fitness and Tennis Club plays host to a four-way BIG EAST weekend featuring the Bearcats, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and West Virginia.
Despite a roster just six healthy players strong, the 2012 edition of the UC Tennis squad vows to remain positive and upbeat. As Wilson points out, when it comes to college-aged student-athletes, anything is possible.
"I still see us being very competitive and strong," Wilson reiterates. "I think we can still maintain being in the middle of the pack in the BIG EAST. Anything can happen. Remember I coach 20-something year old girls. We are just trying to have a really positive attitude about all of this. We want to just have fun competing and just take each match as it comes."