Rookie power has driven women’s tennis for the past two seasons, starting when now–third-year Vindya Dayananda first arrived on the Stagg courts. On the road to claiming All-American status in NCAAs singles competition, Dayananda also garnered UAA Rookie of the Year and paced the Maroons to their first postseason bid in program history.
Last year, Marissa Lin became the new first-year phenom, earning Rookie of the Year honors for the league and the region but falling short of All-American in her solo trip to Nationals. While Chicago improved from fourth to third at UAAs, the squad couldn’t repeat its playoff appearance. The 2008 campaign will test whether the Maroons can continue the youth movement as they welcome four first-years into the fold and punch another NCAAs ticket.
If the fall is any indication, then the Maroons are heading into the bulk of their season already at the top of their game. ITA ranking placed the team in the 19th slot back in November, giving women’s tennis the highest standing of all Chicago teams. That kind of placing doesn’t come along without a lot of depth to back up starters playing at the top two slots.
While the squad lacks a fourth-year anchor, team leaders like Dayananda and Lin have already earned two UAA Athlete of the Week awards apiece. If recruiting has kept pace with years past, then these two can act as critical examples for upcoming South Siders as the team looks to carry on the early success and the excitement from practices.
Getting to the top is easy compared to staking out a permanent spot among the best squads, but that’s what the Maroons are up against now. They’ve gone from climbing the ranks to being one of the targets, which means they’ll constantly be facing first-string lineups.
Those lineups will come from other top-30 D-III teams and D-I opponents in a schedule that leaves Chicago with little room for error, starting with a home match against D-I Chicago State next Friday. Youth could become a drawback as the South Siders continue to adjust to collegiate competition. To take some of the pressure off, the squad has put the focus on playing hard over notching wins and a higher ranking.
Who to Watch: Rookies
Everyone knows what players like Dayananda and Lin can do. Keep on eye out for the class of 2011 with Christina Daly, Chrissy Hu, Cristina Simpetru, and Elena Stratigakes looking to carry on a tradition that teammates like Lin and Dayananda have already started.