The women’s tennis team opened up its fall season this past weekend at the Atlanta Classic in Piedmont Park. Though the three days of matches did not count towards the Eagles’ team wins and losses, they provided valuable experience against top competition and did affect the players’ individual records.
Head Coach Amy Bryant appreciated the early challenge.
“This tournament was a great opportunity to start forming our doubles teams and to get in shape,” Bryant said.
Emory began play Friday morning, facing singles and doubles teams from Division I schools Georgia State University, University of North Florida, and University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB).
The 2012 Division III Singles champion and junior Gabrielle Clark turned in a strong performance in topping UAB senior Isabel Fernandez 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Clark also teamed with freshman Emma Taylor to defeat North Florida’s top doubles pair, 8-3.
The Eagles won six of their nine first-day singles matches with three freshmen — Taylor, Beatrice Rosen and Madison Gordon — notching their first collegiate wins, all two-set decisions against opponents from UAB.
“It feels good to see the freshmen ready to step in and contribute right away,” Clark said. “It makes you feel like we’re going to have a good season.”
Saturday was also highlighted by strong play by Clark and the continued development of the Eagles’ doubles teams.
Clark and Taylor teamed up once more for another 8-3 win, while the duo of senior captain Jordan Wylie and freshman Marissa Levine were also victorious.
Emory was strongest in the singles matches on Sunday with Levine and Gordon once again earning victories. The only Eagles doubles win of the day came from freshmen Stephanie Loutsenko and Annette Sullivan.
“Overall, I’m really impressed with how everyone performed,” Bryant said. “This was a great opportunity to get a look at where we are early in the season.”
Fresh off a third-place finish nationally last season, Bryant believes the Eagles have the potential to do even better.
“We have a good group of girls with a good heart and a good willingness to improve. I think that determination will be key.” Bryant said after the tournament.
The Eagles certainly got off to an impressive start.
Overall, they took 12 out of 26 singles matches and six out of 15 doubles matches from their Division I foes.
Clark led the way in the singles with a 2-1 record, her lone defeat coming from North Florida’s Lauren Aviles, 6-3, 6-2.
“Generally [Division 1] teams are a bit more talented, so it was great to start the season against some tougher opponents, and opponents with different styles,” Clark said.
Sophomore Catharine Harris also posted a 2-1 singles record, going 2-0 against opposing schools.
Harris defeated Georgia State sophomore Megan Nelms 6-0, 6-2 before triumphing over UAB sophomore Sarah Witkowski.
Freshman Madison Gordon managed to sweep her first college tournament, posting a 3-0 record against opponents from UAB and Georgia State.
Gordon won all of her matches in a clean two sets.
As for doubles, the duo of Clark and Taylor went 2-1, as did sophomores Allie Damico and Lauren Pinksy.
The Eagles have a long season ahead of them before they attempt to top last year’s finish, but they have plenty of matches in the meantime. Next for the team is a trip to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Regional Tournament, hosted by Huntington College in Montgomery, Ala.
Like the Atlanta Classic, the tournament will span three days: Friday, Sept. 21 to Sunday, Sept. 23.
By Ryan Smith