GW women’s tennis heads to Florida to compete in the Atlantic 10 Championship Wednesday, vying for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
After blanking out Duquesne for the final match of the conference slate Saturday, the Colonials hold a 5-3 conference record with a .625 winning percentage on the regular season. Head coach Torrie Browning said she is confident her team will hit its stride for the championship as the conference schedule boosted the team’s performance on the court.
“We did not have an easy schedule this year,” Browning said. “The first half was on purpose – we scheduled a lot of tough teams, teams that are technically ranked within the top 75 in the country. So it was all in preparation for the A-10 play, which was the second half of our season.”
Browning said in preparation for the championship, the coaching staff changed its pairing for doubles to ensure the best matchups for the championship and focused on outdoor practice for the remainder of the season to prepare for the conditions of championship play. She said the team should rank between third and sixth seed for the tournament, but seeding should not dictate the team’s performance.
“Honestly, I don’t think it matters where you’re seeded because a lot of teams are quite even,” Browning said. “Having a higher seed definitely helps, but it doesn’t make or break you. The mindset heading into the conference tournament is you should start from 0-0.”
A-10 Championship seeding for tennis includes more factors than for other sports, gauging national rankings, head-to-head matchups records, wins against higher ranked teams and performance against mutual opponents.
Browning said the team had performed well in the final games of the season, highlighting performances by sophomore Lindsay Thompson and senior Katarina Marinkovikj after winning four straight victories this weekend to help GW defeat Duquesne 4–0.
“We want to be playing our best, and I think we’re really doing that right now,” Browning said. “I think we’re really peaking.”
Browning ranked sophomore Stella Wiesemann as GW’s top player, followed by Marinkovikj as the number two after tinkering with the lineups throughout the season to find doubles players that can work well with each other.
“You absolutely know where the person is on the court better, you know how they move and what kind of shots they will play,” Wiesemann said. “It’s really nice to have that continuous doubles partner.”
Marinkovikj said the team practices two hours each day with 20-minute warmups for drills and matches against each other. She said the team will cut down practice time on the day before the match to allow the team members to rest.
Wiesemann and Marinkovikj will face off against some of the best talent in the A-10 but neither of them plan to shy away from the competition, they said. In what could be the last competitive tennis of Marinkovikj’s career, she said she’s drawing on some of her past experience to push the team forward.
“We’ve already played so many diverse matches,” Marinkovikj said. “That really helps me personally because I’ve seen myself and my teammates evolve and play better and better with every match. Once you get to the point where you’re playing conference, that experience really helps you.”
As a more experienced and seasoned player, Marinkovikj said she relies on her forehand to control matches, always staying on the offensive and looking to finish the point. Wiesemann said she also features a forehand down the line – a shot where the ball hits near the sidelines without crossing the centerline, one of the more impressive swings in the sport.
Marinkovikj said the tough matches in the conference slate helped the team increase its level of play with more challenging matches after adapting to the hardcourt game, which she expects to help her throughout the championship matches.
“I think I have solid grown strokes, but in every point, I look to be the offensive one and to take advantage with my forehand to dictate the tempo and potentially finish the point,” Marinkovikj said.
Wiesemann said she looks to savor the championship experience with her teammates to build the team’s energy during their matches. She said the Colonials’ current three-game winning streak has helped condense play for the team, which should improve their play at the A-10 level.
“I mean, of course winning, but in general it’s just kind of having a really, really good team energy,” Wiesemann said. “We, as a team, get along really well. We’re only eight people, so that is definitely something I look forward to, just competing with my team.”