WILMINGTON, North Carolina – With a strong supporting cast returning in 2013-14 from a team that made its first appearance in the Colonial Athletic Association finals, Coach Evan Clark is excited about the future of women’s tennis at UNCW.
The Seahawks went 14-7 this spring and won eight of their last 10 matches before falling in the CAA championship match to No. 49 William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The strong finish should give the team a big lift heading into next year’s campaign.
“I’m very proud of this team for what they accomplished this year,” said Clark, who took over the program late last summer. “They reached the conference championship for the first time in history, and that was a testament to how hard they worked.
“We had a great year and I couldn’t have asked for any more from the team. The players responded very well with the transition. We’ve had a successful year both on the court and in the classroom.”
The Seahawks kicked off the spring season on Feb. 1 with a 4-3 victory over CAA rival James Madison in Norfolk, Va., and took on five nationally-ranked opponents before finishing 8-3 at home and 6-4 on road/neutral courts.
Junior Kelly Cameron (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) and sophomore Alyssa Ritchie (Franklin, Ohio) fashioned identical 16-4 singles records to lead the team, which finished with a 74-40 (.649) mark in singles. Freshman Christine Kharkevich (Houston, Texas) carved out a 14-6 record for the second-most wins in her first year with the team.
In doubles, the Seahawks compiled a 33-22 (.600) record, led by All-CAA doubles teams Kelly Cameron-Miller Hales and Kharkevich-Ritchie.
Five different women earned All-CAA honors, including junior Angie Sekely, who became just the second player in school history to take home First-Team accolades.
“Overall, it was a great year for me and I’m very happy to be here,” added Clark. “It should be easier next year because everyone knows the goals we have and how things work. There won’t be any questions about the new coach and what he does and doesn’t like.
“The program that John (Ware) and I put in this year works and we’ll use another year of developing and getting better and, hopefully, that will get us where we want to be.”
The team loses only one senior, Indiana native Christina Riley, who contributed to several key “firsts” for the program. Riley was part of the first ranked team in school history, the first team to reach the CAA finals and the first team to beat a ranked opponent.
“Christina is a big loss for us,” said Clark. “She has been extremely helpful to me in my first year here. She has been very supportive and done everything I’ve asked her to do. She had to step into a leadership role and we will definitely miss her.”
Riley will hand over the leadership reins to Olga Blank, Cameron and Sekely – all rising seniors in next year’s class. Clark believes the trio will be up for the challenge.
“We’ll have three seniors next year and they’ll share the leadership role. They have contributed to the success of the program and our players already have respect for them. They’re very excited about taking over that role.”
Clark plans to devote much of his time in the off-season molding a schedule that will be more balanced, providing much-needed challenges and allowing for significant rest before the CAA tourney.
Clark said, “I would like to play a tougher schedule. This year was a little lopsided in that we’d play a team that we were way better than or one that was a little better than us and it was going to be a tough match to win.
“One of our goals is to be in the rankings, so the matches need to be a little tougher. To get into the rankings, you have to play better teams. My goal is to play a stronger schedule to help make us better.”