Women’s tennis is playing its best game yet heading into the Atlantic 10 Championship this weekend in Orlando, Fla.
The Colonials (13-8, 6-1 A-10) are the No. 2 seed in the tournament – their highest ranking ever – and own the best regular season conference record in program history.
GW’s 4–3 win over Duquesne last weekend extended a five-game win streak and gave the Colonials their sixth conference win of the year – the first time they have achieved this feat. Players and coaches said the historic season positions the team to make a run at a conference title.
“I’ve been here for four years and I’ve seen how much this team has grown,” senior Marie-Louise Decamps said. “The level of play we’re playing at right now as a team compared to what it was four years ago is just so different.”
As the second-seeded team, GW will receive a bye in the first round. They will play No. 7 Dayton, who defeated No. 10 George Mason Wednesday afternoon, Thursday. The Colonials did not play Dayton, who finished 3-1 in the A-10, in the regular season.
“We need to take every opponent that we play very seriously,” head coach Torrie Browning said. “Pretty much every match is win or go home.”
In the A-10 tournament last year, the Colonials headed back to Foggy Bottom after a 4-1 first-round loss to Richmond. The loss left the Colonials to finish with an 11-10 record overall and 3-4 in the A-10.
The first round loss to Richmond last year remains fresh in the team’s mind as they enter this year’s competition. Browning said the confidence her team has developed throughout this season gives them a competitive edge over last year’s squad.
“We need to stay humble, but we need to stay hungry and know that what we’ve accomplished this season should give us all the confidence in the world,” she said. “But again, we need to be focused.”
Browning, who is in her second year at the helm of the program, said losses against strong opponents during the non-conference slate, a team-first mentality and motivation to work hard was a “recipe for our success this season.”
The Colonials did not string together more than two wins in a row before their win streak at the end of the season, but finished with three-straight conference wins against George Mason, Davidson and Duquesne. GW has not dropped a match since its 6–0 loss to VCU March 31.
In their non-conference matchups, the Colonials dropped 4–3 decisions to West Virginia, Long Beach State and William & Mary.
“Our out-of-conference schedule was a lot tougher this year to really challenge us,” Browning said. “We had a few losses to some very good teams in the nation, so that helps us as we’ll prepare for our conference schedule.”
Despite their high ranking, Browning said the team is approaching the tournament game-by-game.
“A lot of teams in our conference know that we’re a good team, so we kind of have a little bit of a target on our backs,” Browning said.
Browning said that the team’s chemistry has also been a major factor in the team’s success, and players not only want to do well for themselves but for their teammates as well.
Throughout much of the season, the Colonials were forced to compete with an incomplete squad, including a mid-season stretch when junior Maria Siopacha – the team’s top singles player – missed five matches due to a concussion.
“As soon as we started winning we gained confidence,” Siopacha said. “In the last couple of matches, that helped us.”
Siopacha said this year’s improved record coupled with the squad’s hard work in practice since before the season started shows the team is ready to win the title.
“We’re more experienced this year,” Siopacha said. “I think our results during the whole season show that we’re more ready than last year.”
The Colonials have not won an A-10 title since 1993. If GW captures the conference title, the squad would be the fourth team in program history to do so.
As the Colonials ready themselves for postseason play, Browning said she hopes her players can translate their accomplishments in the regular season into a championship win. She said recent success has energized the team.
“I’m really expecting them to be really pumped up and fired up,” Browning said. “I know they’re all extremely excited.”
The Colonials have an added incentive to take home the title – Browning and her staff promised the team they would get matching tattoos to commemorate a first-place finish.
“They would get something about winning the conference,” Siopacha said. “No pressure or anything.”