Oct. 20, 1999
With the return of four starters from last season’s squad and the addition of several newcomers, Clemson head women’s tennis coach Nancy Harris is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season.
“We’re bringing in some new people that are going to add the much-needed depth for our team,” said Harris. “But with newcomers, especially freshmen, you just don’t know how they are going to perform in competition.”
The Tigers had consistent performances last season from Carmina Giraldo at number one singles, Catherine Galvin at singles flight three and Cecilia Hincapie at number four singles. “All three of those athletes were meeting the demands of our schedule, which is a top 20 schedule, and we were always winning one doubles point, so we lost some big matches 5-4,” said Harris.
Clemson defeated then 18th-ranked Brigham Young 5-4 early in the season and beat then 34th-ranked Georgia Tech 5-4 to end the regular season last year. “We showed the potential to play at the level of our ranked opponents, but we lacked the depth at the bottom of the lineup,” said Harris. “This year the athletes at the bottom of the lineup are juniors and have a lot more experience. Hopefully they are going to stay injury free.”
Once again Harris is looking for a strong performance at number one singles from sophomore Carmina Giraldo, who recorded a 12-7 overall record and a 7-2 conference record to earn All-ACC honors last season. She won 10 of her last 14 matches and defeated 11th-ranked Mariel Verban of Wake Forest in the first round of the 1999 ACC Tournament. Giraldo represented the Tigers at the NCAA Tournament last year, where she dropped a 7-5, 7-6(5) decision to Georgia’s Marissa Catlin.
“Her win over Verban was a significant win at the conference championships,” said Harris. “I look for Carmina to have another good year.”
Senior Catherine Galvin also returns in the top half of the singles lineup. Glavin earned All-ACC honors two years ago and had a 11-10 overall record and a 6-3 conference record at number three singles last season. “Catherine has had two solid years, and I think that she will be a winner for us again this year,” said Harris.
Juniors Christina Oldock and Cinny Clausen played in the lower half of the singles lineup last season, but both have struggled with injuries throughout their careers at Clemson. “They were at the bottom of the lineup, and that’s where we were having a difficult time winning,” said Harris. “Every week they were giving us everything they had, but they just couldn’t physically keep up with the demands of a top 20 schedule.”
Oldock had surgery in the fall and will hopefully return to action in January or February. “Hopefully this surgery is going to give her the freedom to return to the game without pain and without worrying about taking care of her injury,” said Harris. “Christina has always had the potential to be a great college player,” said Harris. “We just haven’t seen it yet because of her injury.”
Clausen has been plagued by a hand injury and has not been able to endure the pain of holding a racket. “We’re trying a lot of different things, but until she’s 100 percent physically, we’re never going to know what she can do,” said Harris. “Clausen was one of America’s top juniors, but we’ve never seen her at what I believe is her potential. These past two years have been difficult because she’s been in and out of the lineup because of her injury, so she’s never really been able to show what she’s capable of.”
Several newcomers are expected to complete the Tiger lineup. Freshman Sunnie Harmon of Greenwood, SC, was the state champion in 1998 and earned a number four ranking among all South Carolina players last year. “Sunnie is a player that we feel in time will be able to develop,” said Harris, “and we’re delighted to have someone from the state join the ranks of a South Carolina school.
“We have two other new players that we are very excited about, freshman Laurence Jayet and transfer Anna Savitskaya,” said Harris.
Jayet was formerly one of France’s elite juniors. She was the country’s number one player in the 13s and 14s and has been a consistent top junior for France. “We are so excited to add Laurence to our lineup, because she’s not only one of the best singles players, but also one of the best doubles players in the country,” said Harris.
Savitskaya, of St. Petersburg, Russia, was ranked sixth in Russia and ninth in the Independent States as a junior. “Every day Anna has gotten better and better and we’re really looking forward to her singles and doubles performances,” said Harris.
Despite the loss of seniors Cecilia Hincapie, Kate-Maree Mair and Meredith Chandler from last year’s team, Harris has high expectations for this season. “We have lost some key players, but I think this season is going to be the best we have had since I have been at Clemson,” she said. “The newcomers are going to add a lot. We’re going to be much stronger in doubles this year, and I think that will be a significant factor for us.
“This is my third year here, and the spirit of this team is the best I have seen yet. That’s a wonderful element that you can’t always count on when you bring several new people together.”
As always, the Tigers will play a tough schedule, facing eight teams that are ranked among the top 20 in the country. “We are going to be in a better position to face that competition than we were last year, certainly with the added depth,” said Harris.
Out of Clemson’s 19 dual matches, only seven will be on the road. Harris is hoping to capitalize off the home court advantage. The Tigers have also added Miami and South Florida to the lineup, replacing Notre Dame and Indiana, to give the team an advantage next season when it travels to Florida.
“By playing a few more Southern schools, we will be able to play more matches on hard courts outdoors, instead of playing indoors,” said Harris. “Since the national championship is played on hard courts outdoors, I would much rather be playing on this type of court during the regular season. We consistently played well against the Midwestern schools at home, but did not play as well on the road because the indoor courts are very slick and fast. Moving away from that schedule is going to help us at the end of the season.”
The ACC will again provide top level competition for the Tigers. “The ACC is getting tougher and tougher all the time,” said Harris. “I think you are going to see over the next 10 years that the place to be in women’s collegiate tennis is the ACC.”
Seven of the nine ACC teams finished among the top 50 in the final ITA poll last year, including four teams in the top 30. Duke finished the season ranked third nationally, and Wake Forest was 17th in the final poll. “All of the conference schools moved up in the rankings last year, some of them as many as 20 spots, and the conference is only going to get stronger and stronger,” said Harris.
Harris feels this year’s team is up to the challenge. “To be the best you have to play the best, and to attract the best recruits you have to have a tough schedule,” she said. “Our players really appreciate the challenging schedule, and they want to play the best teams, so I think it’s positive to have such a tough schedule.”
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