UMBC Women's Tennis Outlook
UMBC TAKES AIM AT FOURTH STRAIGHT TITLE
In methodical fashion, the women's tennis team continued their dominance of league opponents, conquering their second straight Northeast Conference championship and third straight title overall (1998 Big South). As a result, UMBC made their second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The Retrievers did not lose a single match and dropped just two sets over the three day tournament in wins against Sacred Heart, Central Connecticut, and Quinnipiac. UMBC fell to national power USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, ending yet another terrific season.
The forecast for winning their fourth straight league title looks extremely bright as UMBC will return five of their top six players this season. In addition, head coach Keith Puryear has added two players who he believes will make an immediate contribution and challenge for spots in the rotation.
"We are extremely deep," said Puryear. "We have seven players who are all interchangable and at this point it is very difficult to predict which player will play which spot. It will be very interesting to see who steps up."
A trio of seniors, Nicole Russo, Karen Prangley, and Karri Bielewicz, would like nothing more than to finish their careers with four consecutive conference titles. Russo occupied the #1 position for the Retrievers last season and turned in a great campaign, including a come-from-behind win in the NEC finals. Prangley battled injuries last season but returned late in the campaign to win seven matches and help UMBC win the league crown. Bielewicz, an all-conference selection at #3 singles, went 21-5 last season.
Sophomore Anita Pushpanathan enjoyed a standout freshman season and was selected to the all-conference team at #4 singles. Pushpanathan led the team and the entire conference with 29 victories. Junior Kathryn Wheatley also enjoyed a great season and went 20-6 at the #2 singles spot.
A pair of newcomers, Van-Ann Nguyen and Yana Karaskora, are expected to solidify the rotation. Nguyen is a very aggressive player who can reach the mid-nineties with her serve. Yana has a very big backhand and will be the first foreign player (other than Canada) to don a UMBC uniform. Junior transfer Kate Burg will also challenge for playing time.
UMBC will play a difficult schedule with the hopes of achieving their first regional ranking. The Retrievers will face the likes of Cornell, UMASS, American, and Columbia.