Women’s tennis competes at ITA Grass Court Invitational

The women’s tennis team gets back into tournament, as players had to be flexible and adjust to grass surfaces

Georgia Wright, 22, was eager to debut her college career this season at the ITA Grass Court Invitational. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info.

Ellen Kanzinger

Georgia Wright, ’22, was eager to debut her college career this season at the ITA Grass Court Invitational. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info.

Katherine Berman

The women’s tennis team opened their off-season on Sept. 14-16 by sending three players to Newport, R.I.’s 2018 Hall of Fame International Tennis Association Grass Court Invitational.

The reigning ODAC champions were represented by Valerie Marshall, ‘21, Taylor Garcia, ‘22, and Georgia Wright, ‘22.

Matches, formatted into flighted singles and round-robin doubles, were played at the Tennis Hall of Fame on the iconic Bill Talbert Stadium Court as well as several other grass courts, which have seen the likes of John Isner, the Bryan brothers and more great tennis legends.

The invitational hosted four different women’s teams including second-ranked Emory University, tenth-ranked Carnegie Mellon University, No. 11 University of Chicago and No. 18 Washington and Lee University.

The Generals were eager to get back into tournament play, especially Garcia and Wright, who made their college debuts on the grass surface. None of the Generals had ever played on grass before, requiring them to be flexible and adjust their play.

“It was really difficult, because it was very different from playing on hard courts, and you had to adjust to how the ball bounced and how you moved your feet, because it was so hard to run,” Marshall said.

The grass surface on every court was unique because of its varying playability, grass thickness, scattered divots, and dryness.

“I fell a lot and slipped on the very first point,” Garcia said with a laugh. “The grass didn’t taste very good; playing on the grass surface was definitely difficult to adjust to.”

“It wasn’t necessarily pretty tennis; you just had to go with it and hit some wacky shots and have fun,” Wright said.  “At the end of the day, we were playing on Hall of Fame grass courts, so it was just an incredible experience,” Wright added.

In singles play, Marshall competed in the Virginia Wade Flight and was defeated on Friday by Annika Pandey from Chicago six to three, six to three, before beating Carnegie Mellon’s Courtney Ollis seven to five, six to four, on day two.

On Sunday, Marshall lost to Emory’s Jessica Fatemi six to two, six to three. Both Garcia and Wright played in the Helen Sukova Flight and won their Friday matches against two top-ten players representing Chicago; Garcia beat Claire Honda, six to two, six to two, and Wright won against Marjorie Antohi, seven to five, seven to five.

On Saturday, Emory’s Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico defeated Wright, 6-3, 6-0, and her teammate, Daniela Lopez, beat Garcia, 6-1, 6-3. The first-year Generals faced off on Sunday with Garcia defeating Wright in an eventual tiebreak after the two split sets with Garcia winning the first, 7-5, and losing the second, 4-6, before pulling out the win in a 10-4 tiebreak.

“Playing each other was casual and fun, and there wasn’t a lot of high pressure,” Garcia remarked. “We gave each other high-fives, talked, and made jokes whenever we were switching sides.”

Together, Garcia and Wright brought home a second-place win in the doubles round robin beating Emory’s pair, Gonzalez-Rico and Taylor, 8-4, before losing in a close and competitive finals match to the All-American doubles team, Melissa Strome and Vinaya Rao, from Carnegie Mellon, 8-5.

“Beating Emory’s number one doubles team was so exciting,” Wright said. “That gave me a lot of pride and was probably my favorite part of the tournament.”

The women’s tennis team also competed successfully the weekend of Sept. 22 at the ITA Southeast Region Championships where over 20 teams played at the University of Mary Washington.