Loaded women’s tennis seek deep NCAA run

By Kate Fratar

Riding the boost from a fresh wave of talented rookies and the sweet swing of then-first-year Vindya Dayananda, women’s tennis rose to new heights last year. This season will test whether the returning players and entering first-year class can repeat the magic from the 2006 campaign and take the team to the next level.

After placing fourth at the UAA championships last season, the Maroons went on to battle Wheaton at the Central Region Semifinals in the program’s first-ever NCAA postseason appearance. The squad fell 5–3 to the Thunder in the first round, ending the year at 15–9. With her bid to compete at the NCAA single competition already secured, Dayananda continued her run and became the second player in Chicago history to claim All-American honors. The title added to her UAA Rookie of the Year status and put the final flourish on a 20–11 season.

So far, it looks like the South Siders are on track for another successful year as they gear up for the spring with a 14th-place ranking in the division in the ITA fall poll. The past month of training has revealed a strong squad with a deep bench that is ready to take its game to live matches and see how it stacks up against the competition. Chicago will get that chance this weekend when it hosts DI squad Northern Illinois today, and again when it travels to face Kalamazoo Sunday.

The biggest thing to keep an eye out for in this season opener is the Maroons’ doubles tandems. After juggling the pairings right down to the final weeks on the schedule last year, the team set out this January to establish its best combinations early on. The move gives partners time to find their rhythms, while also helping encourage the team dynamic that’s crucial to bringing players up to the college level of tennis.

“A lot of times, players come in, they’ve played high school, but their main tennis experience was junior tournaments. So when they get to college, you have a team atmosphere, and a lot of players really thrive on that,” head coach Marty Perry said. “We try to do our best to create that type of environment and really try to put the team first and succeed as a team. If players buy into it, it can be really fun and help take their game to another level by being motivated to get better and help the team.”

If the new crop of Maroons can be introduced to tennis in Hyde Park as well as last year’s class, then the U of C is in store for a solid follow-up to 2005’s breakout season.