CLEVELAND, Ohio – Following a successful fall of 2011, the Case Western Reserve University women's tennis program features a young roster full of lofty expectations as it looks to make a run at an improved University Athletic Association standing and the region's elite during the spring of 2012.
The Spartans improved their mark from 10-13 in 2009-10 to 9-8 last season with a handful of matches against regionally and nationally-ranked opponents. The team then posted a perfect 3-0 record in dual matches this fall and picked up just the second regional ranking in program history.
And, despite having a youthful roster consisting of three juniors, one sophomore and seven freshmen, fourth-year Head Coach Todd Wojtkowski is confident that his Spartans can take their play to the next level over the next several months.
"We are certainly ready to be competitive in the conference this year," said Wojtkowski. "It's tough, as the top-three teams in the UAA are also in the top-eight nationally and the next three teams are all top-25 as well. We lost to two of those teams 5-4 last year, but with adding a few new players I feel we now have the depth to compete and win the tight matches."
Ranked at No. 14 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Region team poll, the Spartans will be led by junior Erika Lim (Fullerton, Calif./Fullerton Union), the highest ranked player in program history.
The third-year Spartan posted an 8-3 record during the fall and finished runner-up at the prestigious United States Tennis Association/ITA Central Region Championship. For her efforts, she was named the UAA Player of the Week and earned the No. 2 singles ranking in the region. Now in her second season as the team's No. 1 player, Lim has posted a 37-18 overall career record.
"Erika (Lim) holds a strong role on our team, and she gives us that reliable point each time she goes out," said Wojtkowski. "There aren't many people in the region that can beat her. Therefore, we always know what we are getting when Erika takes the court. She is a competitor and put a lot on her plate her first two seasons with extracurricular activities, while also battling through injuries. This summer, she got herself in great physical shape as did many of her teammates. That being said, each point counts the same, and we really try to emphasize that each player is equally important to the team from the top to the bottom of the lineup."
That Spartan lineup will also feature a mixture of rookies and experienced players like freshman Marianne Bonanno (Clayton, Ohio/Northmont), sophomore Bianca Patel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Sycamore), freshman Alison Althans (Gates Mills, Ohio/Gilmour Academy) and junior captain Kathleen Evers (Cincinnati, Ohio/Mount Notre Dame).
Bonanno posted a 7-3 record during her first collegiate fall season including a 2-0 mark at the No. 2 position and 1-0 record at No. 3. Patel saw action at No. 3 and No. 4 with a 5-3 overall record. Althans displayed versatility, playing at both the No. 3 and No. 5 positions during the fall with a 5-2 record. Evers saw action at No.4 and No. 5 with a 6-3 record and has 18 wins in her career.
Also vying for time in singles play will be junior Emily Pham (Mason, Ohio/William Mason) along with freshmen Angie Korpusik (Campbell, Calif./Presentation), Sitara Koneru (Columbia, Ohio/Wellington School), Alexandra Lim (Fulleton, Calif./Fullerton Union), Elisse Cho (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Scioto) and Morgan Hertik (Nashville, Tenn./Ensworth).
In her first collegiate action, Korpusik floated between the No. 5 and No. 6 slots posting an overall 6-2 mark during the fall. Koneru posted a straight-set victory at No. 6 in the Spartans' final dual match. Pham, who didn't compete during the fall season, recorded a 9-11 record in 2010-11 and will look to play her way back into the rotation.
In doubles play, the Lim sisters are slotted as the team's No. 1 duo after earning the highest doubles ranking in team history this fall -- No. 7 in the ITA Central Region. The Lims posted a 6-4 overall record with a 3-1 performance at the USTA/ITA Central Region Championship.
"It is amazing how different Erika and Alexandra are, yet how well they can get along," said Wojtkowski. "Having Alexandra here has really been great for Erika because it's family, and there is a lifelong bond there that nothing can break. We are expecting big things from them on the court."
Evers and Patel should make an impact in doubles play as well after sporting a 5-1 mark during the fall.
The Spartans open the 2012 portion of the schedule this Friday, February 10 versus No. 12 regionally-ranked Kenyon College at 4:00 p.m. in Gambier, Ohio. The team jumps right back into action the following day versus North Carolina Wesleyan University at 10:00 a.m. in Gambier.
The home portion of the spring begins with a dual match versus Denison University on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Cleveland Skating Club. The team then heads south for its annual spring break trip from March 10-17.
The UAA Championship Tournament closes the regular season on April 27-29 in Altamonte Springs, Florida.
"Last year, we really caught some bad breaks with the schedule in terms of the weather here in Northeast Ohio," noted Wojtkowski. "I felt we really had to make up for it this year. When we were putting together our schedule, we had to make sure to include more challenging opponents to help us grow as a team that is built for success not only this spring, but for years and years to come."