2014 Women's Tennis Preview
Jan. 17, 2014
GREENVILLE, N.C. – After finishing the 2013 campaign with a 12-12 record, the East Carolina women’s tennis team will open its final season as a member of Conference USA when it travels to Williamsburg, Va., on Saturday to take on William & Mary.
East Carolina’s 2014 schedule includes road matches at ACC opponents NC State and North Carolina, as the Pirates will face the Wolfpack on Jan. 24 in Raleigh, before meeting the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill on Feb. 19.
Among its 23 total opponents, ECU will leave the state of North Carolina for just eight matchups, which includes two contests in Virginia against William & Mary and Old Dominion (March 4), three matches in South Carolina versus College of Charleston (Feb. 21), Furman (Feb. 21) and Coastal Carolina (March 21), and a brief stint in Puerto Rico to challenge Bryant, Seton Hall and the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez in the middle of March.
“I think this is the most difficult schedule we’ve ever played in terms of strength of our opponents,” said head coach Tom Morris, who is in his 16th season at the helm of the program. “Everyone is working hard, we’re doing some things very well and we’re excited for the upcoming season.”
The Pirates possess three senior leaders in Neena Wanko, Melis Tanik and Vanessa Fuleihan. Wanko won eight matches playing primarily at the No. 1 spot in the singles lineup last season, while Tanik led the team in overall wins and recorded a 13-5 mark at the No. 2 singles position in her first season at ECU after transferring from West Virginia.
A Raleigh native, Tanik is coming off a successful fall campaign where she compiled a team-best 11-3 record and reached the second round of the singles draw at the ITA Carolina Regional in November.
“I won 17 matches and was named all-conference last season, so if I could do something like that again it would be pretty great,” Tanik said. “Ultimately, I just want to have a great season and come out with a smile once I’m done with it.”
In addition to its senior class, East Carolina’s roster includes two juniors, Dana Gray and Karling Watson, and one sophomore, Nicole LaDuca. The team’s core lies within its freshman class, which boasts six newcomers, including Michelle Castro, Emily Groeneveld, Samantha Light, Maria Storozheva, Scarlett Walston and Elizabeth Zurawel.
“We might start the season with three freshmen and one sophomore in the lineup, so we’re a very young team this year, but the underclassmen all played very well in the fall,” Morris said. “We have to stay healthy and get some help from the younger players.”
Groeneveld had perhaps one of the most impressive fall seasons of the six freshmen, totaling a 10-3 singles record which included victories in each of her first nine matches. Castro notched an 8-5 singles ledger, while Zurawel posted a 6-1 record. In doubles, Groeneveld and Castro paired up for a 5-3 mark – the most of any duo on the team during the fall campaign.
“Our record last year was dead even, so this year we want to have a winning record and we’re totally capable of doing it,” Tanik said. “We have a great group of girls and a lot of freshmen, and it’s good to have a lot of young, pumped-up people on the team.”