The Case Western Reserve University women's tennis team will kick off its spring 2019 campaign this weekend, when the 16th-ranked Spartans take on 39th-ranked Hope College on Saturday, February 16th at 9:00 a.m., and then face Kalamazoo College on Sunday, February 17th at 9:00 a.m. Both matches will be played at the Cleveland Skating Club.
The Spartans will enter the 2019 spring season with high expectations, after a slew of strong performances in the fall placed the team within the top-20 of the Oracle/ITA Division III Women's Tennis National Rankings, and to third in the Central Region Preseason Poll. CWRU is coming off a 15-4 campaign in 2018, and a fifth-place finish at the University Athletic Association Championships.
"Being No. 16 in the national rankings currently, we are working hard to try to break into the top 15 this spring," said Head Coach Kirsten Gambrell McMahon, who is now in her seventh season at CWRU. "Our season will depend on whether or not we are going to be healthy. Unfortunately, we had to sideline several players at times last fall because of injuries which affected some of our performances. If we are all healthy and prepared to compete, I know we can hang with anyone we will face."
Leading the way for the Spartans will be NCAA All-American Madeleine Paolucci, who earned All-America honors last year at the 2018 NCAA Division III Individual Championships with former Spartan Nithya Kanagasegar. In addition, Paolucci and former Spartan Jessica Liu finished third in the doubles draw at the 2018 ITA Cup in Rome, Georgia this past fall. Paolucci returns this spring after ending last season ranked 20th among singles players in the Central Region.
"I am so proud of Maddie," said Gambrell McMahon. "Already being a two-time All American, she has had an amazing start to her collegiate tennis career. She puts in the time on and off the court and is extremely deserving of all her accomplishments thus far. Being our top player this spring, I will look for Maddie's continued leadership. With many young players on the team, they really look up to and admire Maddie and she is a tremendous role model."
Sophomore captain Nicole Cardwell, who did now compete in the fall, returns this spring after earning All-UAA honorable mention honors at no. 2 doubles, after posting a 22-6 record in doubles play last season with former Spartan Peyton Young.
In addition, sophomore Mira Amin will carry a 3-4 singles record from the fall to the spring, and now stands at 21-13 over her career. Freshmen Nidhi Jha, Sneha Karnam and Shreyaa Mukund will all look to add from a strong fall, during which each of them went 3-3 in singles play, while freshmen Eliza Georgiades and Kristin Jones will both look to make an impact during the upcoming season.
"After battling some injuries during the fall, the entire team is so excited to get back out on the court and compete together," said Gambrell McMahon. "They are showing really positive energy and I am looking forward to seeing how we can perform."
The Spartans are slated to face a strong schedule during the year, with seven of their opponents featured in National Preseason Rankings. The squad will make a trip to Florida in March, which includes a match against sixth-ranked Wesleyan (Conn.) on March 12th and a match against third-ranked Amherst on March 13th. Also in March, the Spartans will play a match against 22nd-ranked Kenyon College on March 29th and against 30th-ranked Denison on March 31st.
CWRU will head to Altamonte Springs, Florida from April 25th-27th for the 2019 UAA Championships. The always-tough conference features six nationally ranked teams this season, including top-15 teams in second-ranked Emory, 10th-ranked Chicago, 11th-ranked Carnegie Mellon and 13th-ranked Washington (Mo.). From there, the Spartans hope to qualify for the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament, and the Individual Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the end of May.
Meanwhile, the Spartans will kick off their campaign on Friday against 39th-ranked Hope College, which stands at 0-1 after a 6-3 loss to Chicago on February 2nd. The two schools met last season, with CWRU winning the match by a score of 7-2.
"Both teams always know how to compete well, show great sportsmanship, and are well coached," said Gambrell McMahon. "They also play a tough schedule like we do and will not be intimidated to play us even though we're ranked higher. We need to be ready to play our best tennis because it will be a big challenge for us to come through this first weekend of matches."
Results and a recap of the matches from this weekend will be posted to athletics.case.edu at the completion of each match.