“Steph is the lioness of our team,” Georgetown Head Coach Gordie Ernst explains.

In his first year on the Hilltop, Ernst, who is fond of giving the girls on his team animal nicknames, is ecstatic with what Cohen brings to the team both on and off the court.

Cohen picked up the game when her father wanted her to pick up a hobby around the age of 5. She was playing in tournaments by the time she reached 10, and she won the New York doubles championship as a junior at DeWitt High School.

Cohen’s success on the tennis court is where she earned her moniker “The Lioness.”

“She likes to prowl the baseline and pounce on short balls,” Ernst says. “She likes to generate pace, and she can hit the ball with any girl in the country. Anyone.”

In her freshman year, Cohen was thrown into the fire immediately, playing mostly No. 1 singles.

“I loved playing No. 1 and being able to play the best girls in the country and sometimes the world,” Cohen says. “It was a lot of fun and it has helped me now.”

Against the stiff competition, Cohen earned the team’s captain award as she went 9-13 in her singles matches and posted a 6-5 mark on the doubles side that year. In the fall of her sophomore season, Cohen reached the `A’ flight singles final at the D.C. Metro Championship and the round of 32 at the ITA Regional Championship.

In spring 2006, a nagging left wrist injury left Cohen stumbling to a 2-9 singles record and 5-9 in doubles. Playing against the opposing teams’ best or second-best players, Cohen could not catch a break all season, though her intensity and competitive spirit never failed her. On March 26, Cohen came from behind against Mariana Chachua of St. John’s to tie the match at one game apiece. Cohen fought Chachua all the way to a 13-11 finish in the third and deciding set for a tough three-set loss.

Returning this year as a junior and team leader, Cohen has benefited from Ernst’s coaching style.

“Practices have been really helpful and intense,” Cohen says. “I feel great right now, and I worked really hard when I went home over winter break.”

Ernst has noticed an improvement in her game as well. “She didn’t have great confidence coming in because she didn’t play many tournaments in the summer, but now she’s really just hitting her stride,” he says.

Despite the Hoyas’ 1-5 mark, Cohen is 4-1 in her singles matches (she plays No. 2 singles now, behind sophomore Courtney Olsen) and 1-2 in doubles. Her only singles loss came Jan. 28 against No. 14 Virginia Commonwealth’s senior Olga Borisova, who ranks fourth in total wins in VCU history. At the VCU 4+1 Tournament, Cohen recorded the Hoyas’ only two wins.

Cohen says that her team has been playing much better than its record indicates, citing tough competition for the matches piling up in the loss column. She echoes Ernst’s goal for the team to make it to the Big East tournament – something the Hoyas haven’t done since 2000.

Despite her intensity during matches, Cohen is anything but fierce off the court.

“During practices I’m the one who likes to keep it light,” Cohen says.

One of the reasons she chose to come to Georgetown was because the girls on the team got along really well, and Cohen certainly adds to the team chemistry.

“She’s not so concerned with where she’s playing [in the lineup]. She just wants to win for the team.” Ernst says. “Steph’s a fun girl; she has a great sense of humor and she’s very bright.”

“She’s an all-around good person and fun to be around,” says Diana Pulupa, who now covers the tennis team for Georgetown’s Sports Information department but knows Cohen from tennis camps in summers past.

“[After she plays a match], if she wins or loses, she is always right there cheering for the team.”

On Friday, Georgetown plays host to Big East foe Seton Hall, and Cohen will work on her goal of making the conference tournament. The next day, the Hoyas will travel to take on No. 37 Pennsylvania in a non-conference tilt.

“I’m looking forward to playing Penn. They’re a very good team and I know a lot of the girls on the team,” Cohen says. “They’re going to be really tough but I think it’ll be fun.”

Although they are a nationally ranked squad, the Quakers had better watch out – the lioness is on the prowl.

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