Women’s tennis is laying the groundwork for a hopeful spring season with their fall competition.
The Colonials have begun their fall slate on a strong note as they look to improve upon a semifinals appearance in the Atlantic 10 Championship that left them knocked out by VCU in a 4–0 defeat last spring. Senior Katarina Marinkovikj and sophomore Stella Wiesemann have performed notably well as a duo this season, reaching the doubles semifinals at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division I Atlantic Women’s Regional Championship in early October and even earning a bid for the ITA Atlantic Super Regionals.
Marinkovikj and Wiesemann advanced to the round of 16 in the singles tournament before losing to Maryland’s Francesca Feodorov in two sets (6–3, 6–2) and Selma Cadar in three sets (0–6, 6–4, 6–0) respectively. Marinkovikj said she gained confidence when she defeated Delaware’s Eliza Askarova in two straight sets (6–2, 6–2) after losing to Askarova on two previous occasions.
“Not everyone can get in and just getting there was really an accomplishment for us,” Marinkovikj said. “Every single match is really tough. Every single player is good. You can’t rely on that you’re going to play someone weaker than you expect. So you really have to meet a certain criteria and standard.”
Marinkovikj said the tournament also bolstered her morale since performing in Bedford Cup in late September. She said she hadn’t played for a significant period of time after the pandemic cut short the 2019-20 season and caused her to stay home last semester, only playing in the international Federation Cup over the summer.
“The first match I played in the Bedford Cup,” Marinkovikj said. “I was a little bit anxious. My arms were shaking, but then this good start really boosted my confidence. So I think I’m expecting a lot, I think we’re going to do really well and there’s a lot of stuff to improve and work on.”
Despite the opening jitters, the fall experience is translating to success on the court and a positive outlook for the upcoming season. Wiesemann said the team is poised to take on the spring slate now that her and Marinkovikj have had an opportunity to hone their craft together.
“Our doubles atmosphere is just amazing,” Wiesemann said. “I know that I can rely on her and I think just finding that relationship with your partner already was a goal that we achieved together. Individually, I want to get more fit, have more endurance on the court. One goal that I would really like to achieve in the spring to is be nationally ranked as a doubles pair and also as singles player.”
Wiesemann said though she didn’t know what to expect this year after meeting many players for the first time after coming in as a freshman last year, the team has adjusted well getting back into the swing of match play.
She said another lift for the team this year, apart from the introduction of the fall season, is a strong culture. She said this culture developed significantly over last year’s season when the athletes were on campus while most of the student body remained at home.
“I think our team culture is really good, and also with living together last semester, because of COVID we all had to live in an affinity together,” Weisemann said. “That definitely brought us closer together; for me, I’ve never met the team before coming here in January. So that definitely was a great start for me just getting to know the girls.”
Marinkovikj said though tennis is an individual sport, the players still function as a team. She said the squad has taken a proactive approach toward fostering healthy relationships and high effort on and off the court because it will translate to improved play.
“One thing we’re trying to do, and coaches have encouraged us to do all the time, is just be better to make your teammate better,” Marinkovikj said. “So as long as you’re pushing harder each practice and each day, you are making the person on the other side of the net do the same. You raise the standard.”
GW will hit the court in Charlottesville, Va. for the ITA Atlantic Super Regionals which start Oct. 22.