Georgia State women’s tennis looks to defend their Sun Belt Title

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During the championship round of the Sun Belt Tennis Tournament at the City Park Tennis Center on Sunday, April 24, 2016. Photo by: Derick E. Hingle for Sun Belt

The Panthers’ women’s tennis team finished last season with a Sun Belt Championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance. A successful season indeed but head coach Jason Marshall wants the success to become a consistent thing for the program.

“Our goal is not only to continue defending our Sun Belt title, but to be a consistent top 25 nationally ranked program,” head coach Marshall said in a press conference.

A consistent top 25 team nationally is a big goal especially coming into the season without Niri Rasolomalala and Linn Timmermann, who were key seniors from last year. However, after some new additions to the team, some key veterans and some young talented underclass players from last season returning it isn’t impossible to accomplish.


Panthers go international with new signees

After losing key players Rasolomalala and Timmermann, the Panthers added three new talented international players.

Damira Muminovic is one of the signees coming from Bosina and Herzegovina. She played in the 2015 Fed Cup for her country against South Africa, and was as also selected to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina in the European Junior Championships in 2013 and 2014. She was ranked No. 1,171 in singles for the world Women’s Tennis Association.

As  one of the best players for her age group, Ilona Golynker is another signee coming from Israel.  Golynker e has been enrolled in the Israeli Army for the past two years. The coaching staff is raving about the level of maturity, leadership and academic excellence she will bring to the program.

Anastasia Grosheva, Nicknamed “Nastya,” is coming from Russia and is ranked as one of the best junior players in her country. She has significant international experience playing interclub matches in Germany. She is transferring from the University of Moscow, and brings with her a powerful serve and some aggressiveness for the Panthers program.

Head coach Marshall feels that this recruiting class is one that will keep this consistently ranked nationally mentality intact.

“This is a strong recruiting class for us,” head coach Marshall said. “We feel we are headed in the right direction with the talent, leadership and work ethic they bring to the program.”


Underclassmen taking charge

The Panthers lost two seniors last season who had a combined record of 28-9, but this team had some young talent that showed how great they can be after another year of collegiate experience.

The Panthers have two key veterans returning in Kristin Rehse and Tarani Kamoe. Rehse will more than likely be the No. 1 spot this season after her outstanding performance last year at the No. 2 spot going 12-6 in singles.

Kamoe and Rehse both combat their weaknesses on the team. Rehse is at her strongest when she is in singles play, while Kamoe is strongest when she is in doubles play. Rehse only played in nine doubles matches compared to Kamoe’s 18, and Kamoe only played in five singles matches compared to Rehse’s 18.  

Kamoe was part of the doubles team that lead the Panthers last season going 13-4 with her partner Timmerman. Losing half of the team’s best doubles pair is a tough loss, but at least keeping one of them is better than losing both. Look for Kamoe to be the leader of her new doubles pair and for them to replicate what they did last season.

Last season the Panthers had three freshmen in the starting six mix and still managed to win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and make an NCAA appearance.

Daniela Ramirez was the breakout star of the freshman group last season going 16-3 in singles and winning 10 straight matches at one point. With another year of experience, look for her to move up to the second or third spot in the starting six for singles.

Chiara Volejnicek was another freshman last season that had a great season going 9-7 in singles and 2-2 in conference play. Not only was she successful in singles play, but also in doubles play. Volejnicek and her partner Ramirez went 10-5 on the season and won eight of their last ten matches towards the end of the season. Look for this pair to dominate the doubles competition next year as their chemistry has only gotten better.

Lara Vovk is the other freshmen that was part of the starting six mix last season, and went 3-12. Despite having a tough season last year, the Panthers were still able to be successful. With another year of experience at the collegiate level, Vovk can only get better for the Panthers.

With a great mix of veterans, young experienced underclassmen and three new international players, the Panthers are bound to have another great season.


How far can this team go in the NCAA Tournament?

Last season, the Panthers were ranked No. 46 (No. 3 seed) entering the NCAA Women’s Tennis Tournament and had to square off against No. 25 Syracuse (No. 2 seed) in the first round. The Panthers lost that matchup 4-3, after being up 3-2 before Syracuse came storming back winning the last two matches. The matchup as a whole lasted 3 hours and 40 minutes in the Gainesville, Florida heat. Head coach Marshall felt the team had a chance, but took it as a learning experience.

“I thought we had a legitimate chance to close it out an hour before it ended and we made a lot of mistakes that helped them late,” head coach Marshall said after the match. “Our fitness could have been better.”

After getting some NCAA Tournament experience last year, the underclassmen understand what it’s like to play on a such a big stage and what is expected of them.. In addition they learned what to work on such as the team’s fitness. Playing in the heat and not being in the right shape can lead to mistakes being made on the court like the Panthers saw in their loss to Syracuse. However, now they know what to expect and what they needed to work on during the offseason.

This team has the potential to at least get further than the first round based off of how far they went with three freshman in the lineup and an injured Timmerman not playing at a 100 percent. With the newcomers, returning players and the same coaching staff, this team can go far on the national level.