With the 2020 championship season rapidly approaching, the Clemson women’s tennis team looks to improve on its performance from a season ago. Head Coach Nancy Harris, who enters her 23rd and final season with the program, returns just three athletes from 2019, who competed in a combined 75 singles and 53 doubles matches. In 2019, the Tigers went 10-15 overall and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years under Harris.
“I am so excited to see our season get underway,” commented Coach Harris. “This team has an amazing potential, and their character as a unit is very strong. They have placed their values first and, with a strong work ethic, they are going to rise to the challenge of this traditionally rigorous schedule as they mature. It is a privilege to be their coach, and I am thankful to all who have brought them to this point in their lives and to Clemson, which has given all of us the great opportunity to represent this wonderful university.”
Clemson graduated two of its top competitors in 2019: Fernanda Navarro and Marie-Alexandre Leduc. Last season, Navarro notched a team-best record of 12-6 at the No. 2 singles position while tallying a 15-8 record overall. Leduc tallied an 11-8 singles mark from line one while going 14-12 overall. Together the pair took the 2018 Fall Doubles Title in addition to earning wins in 29 of their 38 matches in the discipline. Leduc and Navarro also earned a berth to the 2019 NCAA Doubles Tournament, where they fell in the second round to eventual champions Gabby Andrews and Ayan Broomfield of UCLA.
Returning to the lineup for the Tigers this season are seniors Sydney Riley and Tate Schroeder along with junior Laura Marti. Last season, Riley tallied a 10-19 record playing predominantly in the No. 3 position. The senior teamed up with Ally Miller-Krasilnikov in doubles, where they went 8-8 at line two. In the fall of 2019, Riley went 6-5 in singles and a combined 6-4 in doubles.
From the No. 6 position, Marti recorded a 7-9 record in singles last spring in addition to going 13-16 overall. In doubles, Marti played with several different partners and tallied a 7-18 overall record. During the fall season, the junior notched an 8-8 singles mark and a 6-6 record in doubles.
Schroeder, who looks to return to the lineup following injury, finished the spring at 9-8 overall in singles and 3-3 at the No. 4 slot. The senior also shuffled doubles partners last spring, combining for a 5-8 record. Schroeder did not participate in the 2019 fall season.
The Tigers added five athletes to their roster for the 2019-20 season, including senior transfer Mackenzy Middlebrooks, who joins the team after playing three seasons at Missouri. At Mizzou, Middlebrooks worked her way to a 55-35 career singles mark while going 51-29 in doubles. Last season the transfer played at the No. 1 position for the Mizzou Tigers. In the fall, Middlebrooks played to an 8-9 record in singles in addition to going 6-6 overall in doubles.
Freshman Ali DeSpain, who entered the program as a blue-chip recruit according to tennisrecruiting.net, earned a team-best fall record of 10-3 in singles. DeSpain earned flight titles at Roberta Alison and the Seminole Showdown and enters the fall season on a 7-match win streak, dropping just two sets during the stretch. In doubles, the Hilton Head, S.C., native went a combined 6-9 after playing with three different partners.
Classmate Eleni Louka carried a 6-9 record in singles, including a win over 99th-ranked Maty Cancini of Iowa State. Native to Derynia, Cyprus, Louka joined the Tigers as the No. 1 U18 girls singles player and No. 2-ranked woman in her home country. In doubles, Louka and Riley were ranked No. 56 in the nation by the ITA at the end of the fall. The pair went 4-2 and earned a win over then 23rd-ranked duo Eliza Omirou and M.C. Meredith from Vanderbilt.
First-year Zaina Nait Omar posted a 2-9 record in singles during her first season of fall competition. Nait Omar, from Seneca, S.C., also went 2-5 in doubles. Also, mid-year addition Lana Sipek, from Ploce, Croatia, looks to make her Tiger debut in her first semester at Clemson.
The Tigers face perhaps one of the toughest schedules in the country and will take on 10 of the ITA’s top-25 opponents, including seven from the ACC, which has the most teams ranked in the top 25 in the country. Additionally, Clemson will take on 12 NCAA Tournament squads from a season ago, including national runner-up, No. T-2 Georgia, and two final four teams in No. T-2 North Carolina and No. 4 Duke.
Clemson opens its championship season on Jan. 17, when they host Presbyterian and North Carolina A&T for the Duckworth Family Classic. The Tigers will be tested early when they go on the road to take on No. 9 South Carolina and No. T-2 Georgia on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1, respectively. Clemson will begin ACC action on the road at Virginia Tech on Feb. 14 while its ACC home opener will take place on Feb. 16 against Wake Forest. The Tigers will close out the regular season on April 12, when they host Notre Dame. The ACC Tournament is set to take place from April 15 through April 19 in Rome, Ga.