Nov. 20, 2008
With the core of its 2008 ACC Championship team returning and the addition of a pair of talented rookies, the 2009 Clemson women’s tennis team appears poised to defend its conference title and vie for a national championship.
Head Coach Nancy Harris has assembled a roster of eight highly-skilled players to create a potent lineup from top to bottom, possibly the most dangerous in her 12 seasons at the helm of the program. Following NCAA Final Four appearances in 2004 and 2005, Clemson’s national tourney runs have ended in the round of 16 each of the past two seasons. Harris hopes the combination of experience, depth, and talent will amount to a return to the semifinals, with conceivable sights set on advancing even further in the national tournament.
Ani Mijacika, who opened the fall schedule with a #2 ranking and boasts an 8-2 record through three fall tournaments, leads the 2008-09 squad. The junior from Makarska, Croatia made her second straight appearance at the ITA Intercollegiate Indoor Nationals during the November 6-9 weekend. In 2007, she reached the finals of the tourney during her spectacular run in the fall.
Fellow Croatian Ina Hadziselimovic, who are happy to now call her a teammate. Bek routinely defeated both in European junior tournaments to indicate the success Harris foresees from her.
Bek was not the only highly-touted player to join the program this fall. Freshman Keri Wong was a “Blue Chip” Recruit who was ranked as high as #3 in the country according to TennisRecruiting.net. The Jackson, MS native had a stellar junior career, capped by a 46-10 record during the 2007-08 campaign. Wong provided similar results in her collegiate debut, winning a trio of matches in the Tigers’ opening tournament. She then advanced to the quarterfinals of the Southeast Regional and compiled a 7-3 record in the fall season.
Harris anticipates both freshmen will push for positions in the top half of the lineup and is anxious for the increased competition the players will face in practice.
Mijacika will assume the #1 spot for the third straight year after posting a 55-15 record through two full seasons. The current junior amassed a lengthy list of awards in 2008. She earned All-America honors in both singles and doubles, was a finalist for the Honda Sports Award for tennis, and was named an ITA Intercollegiate All-Star.
Mijacika became the first women’s tennis player in school history to rise to the #1 national ranking and received bids to the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships for the second year in a row. She entered the fall season fifth in the Clemson annals with a 79.7 career winning percentage in doubles and was seventh with a 78.6 career winning percentage in singles.
Joining Mijacika in the junior class are Estefania Balda and Hadziselimovic. Balda has played primarily at the flight-two and flight-three positions in her career and has posted a 33-25 record in her two-and-a-half years as a Tiger. The native of Guayaquil, Ecuador was ranked #89 in the 2008-09 preseason ITA singles poll and has been listed as high as #58 in her career.
Hadziselimovic has steadily climbed in the lineup from the #6 position as a freshman to earning a match at flight-two last season. The Sarajevo, Bosnia native improved upon her 17-12 record in 2007 to post a 22-10 mark as a sophomore. Hadziselimovic is a very composed player on the court with a strong mental game.
Senior Federica van Adrichem has been ranked as high as #40 in her career. The native of Amersfoort, Netherlands has won 52 matches in her three years in Tigertown and boasts a 68.6 career winning percentage in doubles. She earned an invitation to the 2006 NCAA Singles Championship and has played in a pair of national doubles tournaments. Harris is hoping Van Adrichem will provide experience and leadership for this team.
Alexandra Luc is also entering her senior season with the Tigers. Consistent throughout her career, she gives Harris a steady player at the #4 through #6 positions. Luc, who hails from Paris, France, has also been a dependable doubles partner with a 54-25 career doubles record.
The team’s lone sophomore, Laurianne Henry, hopes to have a healthy season in 2009. The native of nearby Anderson, SC played just two tournaments this fall due to an injury and was also sidelined during much of the 2008 dual season. However, she won 11 of the 13 matches she played in the spring and clinched the Tigers’ win over Michigan in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Henry, who was trained as a junior player by former Clemson Head Coach Andy Johnston, dropped just five sets in dual matches and finished the year ranked #115 in the nation.
Doubles play has been a strength of the program during the last few years, and many players on the 2009 roster have demonstrated success in the pairs game. In 2008, Clemson won the doubles point in 22 of its 27 contests, sweeping 16 times. Hadziselimovic and Luc partnered 31 times in 2008 for a 23-8 record that finished in a tie for ninth in team wins at Clemson. Both members of the Balda-Van Adrichem team also return after posting an 11-4 mark last year, while Mijacika owns 55 career individual doubles wins in just two seasons.
Harris has put together another challenging schedule in 2009. Clemson will face 13 teams that earned bids to the 2008 NCAA Championships and will participate in the highly-competitive ITA National Team Indoor Championships for the fourth time in the last five years. In 2009, the event will enter its first year under a new format, resembling the NCAA Tourney. Sixteen school sites will play host to first and second rounds, with the winners of the four-team brackets advancing to the round of 16 in Madison, WI on February 13. As a regional host, the Tigers will welcome Auburn, Boise State, and Louisville to the Clemson Indoor Tennis Center during the January 31 through February 1 weekend.
Clemson will also face College of Charleston, Virginia Commonwealth, Furman, and Central Florida in addition to SEC foes Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina. During the always-difficult ACC slate, the Tigers will play host to Georgia Tech, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech, Virginia, Boston College, and Maryland, while traveling to Florida State, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Duke, and North Carolina. The ACC Championships will be held in Cary, NC during the April 16-19 weekend, with NCAA Regional play scheduled to begin May 9. The 2009 NCAA Championships will be held in College Station, TX from May 15-25.
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