Women’s tennis off to near-undefeated start

The women’s tennis team has defeated strong opponents, with wins over 26th-ranked Christopher Newport University and 13th-ranked Johns Hopkins University


Captain Michelle Fleenor, ‘18, in a match last season. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info

Jimmie Mack Johnson III, Sports Writer

With a record of 6-0 and ranked 12th in the division three Intercollegiate Tennis Association, women’s tennis is hoping to continue its dominance in the ODAC and make a strong run in the NCAA tournament.

Captain Michelle Fleenor, ‘18, attributed the team’s early successes to its off-season training.

“We have a really important lifting program that we all really adhered to and everyone really showed up for practice throughout the off-season,” She said. “I think that’s really translated well into our early season play.”

The most notable wins for the team thus far have been an 8-1 victory over 26th-ranked Christopher Newport University and an 8-2 victory over 13th-ranked Johns Hopkins University.

Madison Hutchins, ‘20, said the victory over Johns Hopkins gives the team confidence for the rest of the season.

“We came out and crushed Hopkins, which was a great victory for us. If we keep up the good work, I think we could go far into NCAAs,” she said.

The women’s tennis team is no stranger to excellence. The team won a national championship in 2007 and has won 15 straight ODAC championships.

Head Coach Erin Ness said she expects the team to continue its success on the court.

“The main goals we have set for the year are finishing in the top 15, getting to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament and winning ODACs,” she said.

A large part of the team’s undefeated streak has been its depth.

Valerie Marshall, ’21, has had an immediate impact on the team. She is currently playing in the number-two singles spot and is undefeated. Marshall won ODAC Player of the Week last week for her performances against Randolph College and Johns Hopkins.

Fleenor said the team’s greater depth is one of its key improvements from last season.

“Last year I feel like we were top heavy,” she said. “[This year] any one of us can play in any spot in the lineup, which is so huge.”

Fleenor has also had a strong start to the season. She was originally playing in the number-three singles spot but got promoted to number one singles, Ness said. In that time, she has defeated two nationally-ranked players in 27th-ranked Anjali Kashyap from Johns Hopkins and 49th-ranked Johanna Rana-Aho from Christopher Newport.

Ness said another important part of her team’s success has involved its chemistry.

The team’s cohesiveness is cultivated by both Fleenor and captain Claudia Kesala,‘18. Hutchins said they are strong captains and both put emphasis on team bonding.

Even though tennis is an individual sport, Ness said the team buys into one another.

“They understand that they are a part of something bigger than themselves and that they have to be a cohesive unit in order to succeed,” she said.

Hutchins said she believes the team’s strong bond even impacts opposing teams.

“I think when other teams see how much we love one another it can be intimidating,” she said.

The team’s next home match will be against Hollins University on March 10.