2007 Preview: Terps Looking for Third-Straight NCAA Championships Appearance
The Maryland women's tennis team comes into the 2006-07 campaign with high expectations, and rightly so after back-to-back NCAA appearances the last two seasons. A third-straight trip to the NCAA Championships for the Terrapins would be a first in school history.
Sixth-year head coach Martin Novak is hopeful a mixture of experience and young talent on his roster will make for an exciting and rewarding campaign in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, which had seven teams ranked in the ITA Top 25 at the end of last season.
Six returning letterwinners, headlined by 2006 NCAA participant Marianne Baker, will try and break in four talented newcomers which comprised the sixth-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
"Experience is very valuable and important to any team with specific goals and we need to provide the environment necessary for the new players to mature and prosper," said Novak. "Our four new players bring a lot. They are very skilled and determined to do well in the ACC and nationally."
The Terrapins have made great strides over the last two seasons, picking up a total of 10 conference wins after posting nine victories in the previous five years. They finished tied for fifth in the ACC in 2005 and tied for seventh last season.
Maryland now seems poised to push into the upper half of the conference standings.
Last season, Maryland won five of its 11 ACC matches, finishing tied for seventh in the league standings. This season, the Terps will prepare for a grueling league slate with 11 non-conference dual matches, with four of those teams ending last season among the top-60 in the nation.
"We will continue to play a top-notch schedule and they will improve as they go," Novak said. "We will be a hard team to beat."
Baker, a senior co-captain, will one of the key components to the 2006-07 squad. She was ranked as high as No. 65 in singles last season and earned a place on the All-ACC team after posting 20 wins during the regular season.
Baker combined with former Terp Ramona But to post a 27-6 doubles record, that mark was good enough to have the duo ranked No. 15 nationally at the end of the season. They went on to reach the round of 16 in the 2006 NCAA Championships.
"Marianne is a very experienced and battle-ready senior," Novak said. "She has contributed well both in singles and doubles the last three years. This year as team captain, all Marianne's qualities, including her sparkling personality, will shine and help lead our team."
Graca is expected to be a leader in doubles. She posted 14 wins last season and combined with Rogers in the fall to win the Flight B Doubles title at the Maryland Invitational while also picking up two victories at the William & Mary Invitational.
Michal Amir had a huge impact on the Terps last spring and hopes to continue that effect this season. Amir, who joined the team last spring, started her career off with a solid 13 wins at the No. 5 and No. 6 singles spots. The sophomore also combined with former Terp Jennifer Dent to compile a 13-5 double record.
Juliana Naso will add depth in singles and doubles. As a freshman last season, she won two singles matches at the No. 6 slot while grabbing four doubles victories.
The Terps' sixth-ranked recruiting class was on display in the fall as freshman Eleanor Peters advanced to the quarterfinals at the ITA Regionals and combined with Baker to boast 11 doubles victories.
Freshman Maggie MacKeever had three singles wins in the fall and three doubles victories with Amir.
Freshmen Lisa Miller and Elyse Steiner didn't see nearly as much time in the fall, but they are expected to add depth in the spring. Novak and the Terps have sights set on competing in the upper echelon of the ACC and nationally.
"The ACC is second to none in level of competition," Novak said. "There were nine (ACC) teams in the NCAA tournament last year and the numbers will continue to increase. All the teams are deep with very high quality individuals and coaches, so it is going to be a very even playing field. We look forward to the ultimate challenge of ACC competition."