Jan. 17, 2003
As the 2003 Virginia women's tennis season approaches, there is great amount of optimism about the upcoming campaign. With five letterwinners returning from last season's team, which finished the season in the nations' top 60, joined by a class of talented newcomers, there is cause for excitement. A talented squad playing one of the toughest schedules in country should make for a season to remember for Virginia.
"On paper, this might be the most talented and the deepest team since I have been here," states head coach Phil Rogers, who enters his 21st season at the helm of the Cavaliers. "We are really excited about this team. They are a great bunch of players with a lot of talent. We are so deep, we won't know our lineup until the spring."
Although the lineup isn't set, look for fourth-years Henriette Williams and Jennifer Tuchband to be near the top. The two are back after competing at No. 1 and No. 2 singles for the Cavaliers last season. Williams, who finished the 2002 ranked No. 117 in the nation in singles, is looking to build upon her 11-9 record overall and 4-4 mark in the ACC during the upcoming year. Tuchband, whose singles' ranking reached as high as No. 51 last March, is back after a solid summer playing on the USTA's Challenger tour. Williams and Tuchband will also team again this season in doubles, where they defeated several ranked teams at No. 1 doubles last spring.
Also returning for the Cavaliers are twins Marta and Dora Bechliwanis, who led the squad in singles wins last season with 18 and 15 victories respectively. After a strong first season, expect them to contribute more this year as second-years. Third-year Laura James returns after a 9-6 season in singles. She has overcome some injuries and illness and had a solid summer season.
The five returning players will be joined by four first-years that makes up one of the finest recruiting classes in the nation.
"We are excited about our newcomers," comments Rogers. "This class has had impressive careers as juniors and we feel they can help us immediately."
Lori Stern begins her Cavalier career after a strong summer when she went undefeated in USTA and ITA events. The Ojai, Calif., native represented southern California at the Junior Fed Cup as the squad's No. 1 player. Kristen James, the younger sister of new Cavalier teammate Laura James, also had a productive summer. She reached the round of 16 at the National Clay Court event in Memphis and the semifinals of the ITA Summer Circuit event at William & Mary. Illinois native Lauren Bruch enters her first season after earning a No. 77 ranking nationally in 18s and No. 54 national ranking in 16s. She spent two semesters at Newk's Tennis Academy in Texas. Kyle Montgomery, a native of Charlottesville and younger sister of former UVa men's tennis All-American Huntley Montgomery, also joins the Cavaliers this year. She has fought back from injuries the past year, but was ranked in the top 100 nationally in 16s.
Rogers' 2002-2003 squad will be taking on one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Cavaliers will play 16 of their 22 dual matches this spring against teams that finished 2002 in the Top 75 nationally. A truly national schedule, the Cavaliers will play teams from as close as Richmond and as far away as Oregon.
"Our schedule has to rank high in terms of strength," adds Rogers. "In addition to our ACC schedule, which is always tough, we added two top Southeastern Conference teams in Vanderbilt and Kentucky, along with other top teams nationally like Miami, Oregon, VCU, and Penn."
Everything is in line for 2002-2003 to be a breakthrough season for the Cavaliers. They have the right mix of top returning players and a talented incoming class. Although they will be tested with one of the toughest schedules in the country, it should be a test the Cavaliers are up to.