It’s an old saying that good things come in threes. First-year women’s tennis phenom Marissa Lin will certainly hope that the adage holds true as she goes after All-American honors at the NCAA Singles Championship.
Named UAA Rookie of the Year and crowned the central region’s top rook by the ITA earlier this week, adding the All-American title to this season’s achievements would be another layer of icing on the cake. With three weeks of rigorous training to finish off the work of an impressive season with a 17–7 record compiled against some stiff competition, Lin is in a good position to make it happen at the University of Mary Washington’s Battleground Complex.
“I think she’s as ready as she can possibly be,” head coach Marty Perry said. “She’s done all she can do to prepare.”
Nabbing the distinctive honor hinges on surviving the first round, where the Irvine, CA native will go head-to-head with a league rival, Carnegie Mellon third-year Amy Staloch (24–9). The two battled at first singles during the UAA semifinals April 21, with Staloch taking the 6–4, 6–3 straight set victory in the Tartans’ 6–3 defeat of the Maroons. If Lin can score a little payback in the rematch with Staloch this morning, she’ll go on to face either Vassar fourth-year Debbie Sharnak (22–6) or St. Benedict fourth-year Megan Tiegs later today.
With the win-or-go-home structure of nationals, advancement in the tournament rests on nailing a quick win to ensure plenty of recovery time to prepare for the next bout, and a large part of Lin’s conditioning the past few weeks has been geared toward getting ready for some extensive time on the court.
“I feel really good about the physical aspects of my game,” Lin said. “I think I’ve gotten myself in pretty good shape so I’m not worried about my stamina or technique or anything.”
Besides clocking in a few extra hours in the weight room, Lin has sharpened her swing by squaring off against Rosina De Yeregui. The sister of volunteer assistant coach Valentina De Yeregui, Rosina was one of Uruguay’s top-ranked junior players a few years ago and came into Chicago as a favor for a couple of sessions with Lin.
“She is a really great player, and practicing with her has really helped me get in competition mode,” Lin said. “We played several practice sets, and I think I’ve improved just within a few days of playing against her.”
If anything, the past three weeks of training have displayed a well rounded approach that leaves opponents with very few shots at capitalizing on one of Lin’s weaknesses. With a powerful serve to start off her game, Lin backs it up with strong returns, attacks on anything up the middle, swift transitions when coming forward, and killings at the net. Foot movement is where the rookie struggles most, but that often falls in line with everything else when she’s in top form.
One disadvantage that Lin could face this weekend is squaring off against players who have been at Nationals since May 4 competing with their teams and who are fully match-ready. Her last showdown was a 6–1, 6–0 smashing of NYU second-year Stephanie Tu (5–17) in Chicago’s 6–3 wilting of the Violets for third place at conferences.
Of course, the break in competition could also give her an edge by allowing her to come in fresh when foes are starting to feel run down. Either way, Lin has proven to coaches and teammates that she’s ready and capable of great things if she can stick to her guns.
“She’s a really tough competitor, and she’s tough to rattle. This year, she’s done a great job of keeping her focus,” Perry said. “Whoever she’s playing, I don’t think she’ll have to change her game. There aren’t too many girls out there who can force her to change.”
“I have a feeling she’ll do very well. She has everything going for her,” said second-year Vindya Dayananda, who made All-American last year and paired up with Lin at first doubles this season. “I told her nationals can be a little intimidating because you’re on your own.”
The two narrowly missed flying down to Fredericksburg together, with Dayananda’s selection as one of four possible alternates. But it will be Lin going down there alone, looking to cap off an already stellar rookie season with one more triumph.