UIC Invite offers look at D-I talent

Tournament critical for success in 2012 season

By Alexander Sotiropoulos

The women’s tennis team has been using the past few weeks as preparation for the 2012 season. On Friday and Saturday, October 7 and 8, the Maroons will travel to the UIC Invite to play a round-robin style tournament with UIC and UW-Milwaukee, where they look to make a strong showing.

Although the Maroons took fourth place for the past three years in the NCAA D-III National Tournament, the UIC Invite will give them a chance to face off against D-I squads.

“UIC is a round-robin event, meaning you can’t really lose in the tournament,” Head Coach Taka Bertrand said. “It’s just another opportunity this fall for our players to get match play.”

Fourth-years Kendra Higgins and Jennifer Kung, as the first doubles team for the Maroons, look to go undefeated on the weekend. Higgins won the singles title, and the two together won the doubles title in the ITA Small College Regional Championships in Kalamazoo this past weekend. Because of their titles, they will travel to Mobile, Alabama on Thursday, October13 to play in the national championships.

Given that Higgins and recent graduate Chrissy Hu won the D-III national tournament in doubles in 2009 and 2010, Kung has big shoes to fill. Yet she is looking forward to the experience of playing firstdoubles throughout the season.

“Kendra and I were able to play together for a few matches last year while Chrissy was injured, so we already had some experience playing with each other before regionals,” she said. “So far, things have been great, and we’ve been improving with every match that we’ve played together.”

Aside from the UIC Invite, the first-years have already gotten their first glimpse of collegiate-level tennis at the ITA Regional Championships. Kelsey McGillis led all of the newcomers on the team with quarterfinal showings in singles and doubles with fourth-year Carmen VacaGuzman.

“Kelsey did fantastic at regionals, beating the No. 3 seed [in singles,]” VacaGuzman said. “[She], as well as the other [first-years], have been a great addition to our team. They are all committed and extremely enthused to be part of such a great established program.”

McGillis said she believes that the UIC Invite will be another chance to create a team atmosphere before heading into the 2012 season.

“I guess that this tournament, since we’re still a new team—we have mainly freshman and seniors—[will help us] work on team unity and chemistry this weekend, just so that in the off-season, we can focus a lot on maintaining our physical strength,” she said.

With five first-years on the team, five returning fourth-years, and two returning third-years, the Maroons boast one of the strongest lineups they have ever had in history.

However, not all of Chicago’s talent will be showcased on Friday and Saturday. Third-year Linden Li is studying abroad and third-year Shanelle Trail is recovering from ACL surgery.

Although the full lineup is yet unknown for Friday’s matches, doubles pairs are likely to include Higgins and Kung, fourth-year Tiffany Nguyen and first-year Megan Tang, and first-years Maggie Schumann and Anastasia Kaiser.

VacaGuzman will not be playing, so McGillis’s partner is to be determined.

The invite will also be another opportunity for Bertrand to learn the ropes.  Bertrand is in her first season as a collegiate head coach, after former coach Marty Perry resigned to accept a head coaching position at Bridgewater College in Virginia. Bertrand was previously the assistant coach for both men’s and women’s tennis programs since February 2010.

“[Bertrand] has always been very professional and dedicated to the tennis program at UChicago,” VacaGuzman said. “[She’s] tough, she’s definitely going to push us physically and mentally. I think we need that though; it’s time to change things up.”