By: Darcy Waskiewicz, Sports Editor
Though the Furman men’s and women’s tennis teams each had dominant 2018-2019 seasons, both teams fell short of postseason goals. After a long summer training and competing, the Paladins look to carry renewed energy throughout the season and towards the teams’ ultimate goal – victory in the NCAA Championships.
Over the summer, the Paladins hosted the Furman Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Summer Circuit and finished triumphantly. Furman senior Katarina Kozarov claimed first place in the women’s singles finals, while Furman senior Jake Munns won the men’s singles finals. The Paladins used the summer to prepare for the upcoming season since the schedule grew tight once the school year began.
“Once we got here, we had one week of practice before our first tournament last weekend,” said Furman women’s tennis head coach Adam Herendeen about the team’s preseason preparation. “We had seven of our ten here training in July.”
The women’s tennis team finished the 2018-2019 season with an impressive record of 26-2 and the Paladins’ third straight Southern Conference Champions title with a 4-2 win over East Tennessee State. That win also earned the Paladins an automatic bid to the team’s third consecutive NCAA tournament, but the Paladins were defeated in the first round, an obstacle the team has yet to overcome.
The Paladins started the season at the Elon Invitational on the weekend of Sept. 13-15. Junior MaryAnn Rompf shined with three straight victories in maroon singles draw but fell just short in the final. Freshman Maggie Pate also had success in maroon singles draw and made it to the semi-finals before being defeated, finishing in third place. Rompf and Pate also teamed-up in maroon doubles draw to defeat players from Mercer.
Kozarov and sophomore Julia Adams recently earned bids for the 2019 ITA Women’s All-American Championships, announced on Sept. 17. Adams will compete in the pre-qualifying singles draw, while Kozarov earned an automatic bid for the main singles draw. Kozarov and Adams will also compete in the qualifying doubles draw.
Kozarov, the 2018 and 2019 Southern Conference Player of the Year, and Adams, the 2019 SoCon Freshman of the Year, were also ranked in the ITA preseason national rankings that were released on Sept. 17. Kozarov was ranked 46th in singles, while Kozarov and Adams were ranked 35th in doubles.
The men’s tennis team finished the 2018-2019 season with a record of 17-5 and a chance to move on to the NCAA Championships but fell short to ETSU in the SoCon Championship match. After a successful opening match at the Liberty Invitational on Sept. 13-15, the Paladins look to carry that momentum into the rest of the season.
Furman junior Henrik Atlevi claimed a victory in blue singles draw with three consecutive wins to take him to the finals, where he defeated a player from Liberty for the win. The Paladins also had two doubles victories, with junior Drew Singerman teaming up with Atlevi to defeat players from James Madison, while sophomore James Roelefse and freshman Chad Nash defeated players from Virginia Tech.
“Our goal is always to be playing our best tennis in mid-April. It’s unrealistic to think that you are going to be playing your best tennis when you get back from the summer or winter break,” said Furman men’s head coach J.J. Whitlinger, who was promoted to the role of head coach in late August. “The idea is, in the fall season specifically, to work on refining our skills, progressing, working on some things we need to work on technique-wise, and then, in the spring, let those things take shape.”
The men’s tennis team looks to build off of an impressive first invitational as the team travels to Belton, S.C. for the South Carolina Collegiate from Oct. 4-6. The women’s team plans to continue the team’s success as the Paladins travel to Malibu, California, where Kozarov will compete in the ITA Oracle Masters Championship from Sept. 26-29.