Jan. 18, 2012
For the past eight seasons, head women’s tennis coach Ani Mijacika, Carol Salge, Julie Coin leading the way. In 2012, Harris’ group will try to take advantage of a measure of stability not seen in the program in some time. Clemson’s top four singles players all return from last season, while another extremely talented group of underclassmen are ready to make their mark on collegiate tennis.
The squad features arguably Clemson’s most decorated player in history in senior Romy Kölzer, grace the program this spring. Koroleva will sit out the 2012 dual match season, beginning play in the fall of 2012. Gumulya will sit the first six competition dates of the season as part of an NCAA ruling, but will be eligible to participate for Clemson in mid-February.
“Beatrice is a very solid player, she’s a great team player. She is a person that is going to help us in singles and doubles, and had a great career in the juniors world in both. She’s excited to be a Tiger, and has a very enthusiastic personality, and an excellent student. She’s the foundation of the future great teams, and I am excited about that.
“Yana will sit this year, but I think also a major part of the foundation. I’m very excited at her potential, and her professional potential. She has the stature, and the big game to match.
“Romy joins us this semester, and will help us in singles and doubles. She’s a big hitter, and a good hardcourt hitter. She’s also a team player. In the recruiting process we were able to learn more about her philosophies. One thing that we are excited about is that we think she has some leadership qualities. She has the same spirit and enthusiasm that we like to see in freshmen.”
The freshmen will be key in both the singles and doubles, where Clemson struggled at times last season. Clemson was 15-0 when winning the crucial doubles point, but just 6-11 when dropping it. Ironically, the Tigers had the nation’s number-one team, but struggled with depth.
I don't think it will be up to us as coaches to establish how good they can be, I think that's up to them. I think we have all the components to be very successful
Kochanova, Gumulya, Kölzer, and Vyskocilova should help to even it out, and Ciolkowski has seen major improvement in her doubles game during the offseason. This should complement the nation’s No. 8-ranked duo of Bek and Wong, who may play together, or split up depending on matchups. Wong and Bek will both break the school record for career doubles wins this season, a mark set at 105 by Ina Hadziselimovic.
Bek needs just two victories to surpass that mark, and Wong six throughout the season. That would make them the winningest doubles players in school history, as the two went on several deep runs in prestigious tournaments last season. The reached the finals of the three collegiate Grand Slam events, falling in each, but winning consistently enough to earn the nation’s top ranking.
The Tigers will again play a grueling schedule, as seven ACC teams enter the season ranked in the top 17 nationally, and Clemson has also scheduled a trip to No. 6 Baylor, as well as No. 7 Georgia and No. 27 South Carolina. Duke (#3), North Carolina (#4) and Virginia (#9) gives Clemson three more top-ten challenges in conference play.
This is in addition to the ITA Kickoff Weekend, and possible participation in the ITA Team National Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, VA, where Clemson advanced to the quarterfinals last season. The ACC Tournament is held in Cary, NC from April 19-22, while the NCAA Tournament starts on May 11 at host sites.
“I think we have one of the toughest schedules in the nation. We’ve always chosen to have a tough schedule because we believe that if we are competing with the best, you get to know your opponents, and you know what to expect at the highest level. That’s one thing that Clemson is very fortunate for. The other side of that is that we have to be careful in terms of training because they can get hurt.”
Clemson certainly has the stage this season to advance to an 11th straight NCAA Tournament, and will try to extend the streak of to six straight Sweet 16 appearances. To do that, however, Clemson must take advantage of the first six competitions taking place at hoe before heading on the road for eight of the next nine matches.
“I don’t think it will be up to us as coaches to establish how good they can be, I think that’s up to them. I think we have all the components to be very successful. The enthusiasm can sometimes replace that inexperience and the drive to achieve that national championship. I believe we have a very solid team, and that the key for us is to get off to a solid start and build on the momentum.”