FILE PHOTO: ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA Sophie Panarese is the lone senior playing for the women’s tennis team this year. Panarese finished the 2013-14 season with a 10-15 overall record.
Sophie Panarese is the lone senior playing for the women’s tennis team this year. Panarese finished the 2013-14 season with a 10-15 overall record.
The Georgetown women’s tennis team will kick off its 2015 regular season today and tomorrow against Virginia Commonwealth, Norfolk State and Campbell in the 4-1 Invitational Match in Richmond, Va.

The Blue and Gray concluded their 2013-2014 season with an 11-11 record. Though the Hoyas finished with a .500 winning percentage, their season was a roller-coaster with multiple ups and downs. They began the season with a dismal 1-7 record; however, they quickly responded stringing together a six-match win streak beginning in late February. Notching those six wins brought the Hoyas to a 7-7 record, setting the stage for the remainder of the season.

Though Georgetown earned the No. 5 seed in the Big East tournament, a loss to No. 4 St. John’s in the first round quickly deflated its postseason hopes. The team’s subsequent rout of Villanova in the back draw was encouraging, but the early exit still left much to be desired for the Hoyas.

This season, the team is looking to get a fresh start. The players have fewer opportunities for actual court time due to the elimination of the Hoyas’ old courts outside McDonough Gymnasium, and as a result, the athletes have been placing a larger focus on training and endurance.

“We’ve been training a lot. Given our circumstances — we just got our courts demolished, Yates doesn’t really like that we play on their courts — we’ve had to put in that extra effort off the court. Cross-training, doing a lot of running, a lot of working out, and every minute we’re on the court we really have to focus because we don’t have that many compared to all the other teams that we play,” senior captain Sophie Panarese explained.

The Hoyas have multiple new faces on their 2015 roster, which should prove to be significant for the team’s prospects. With the departure of last year’s seniors, including Madeline Jaeger and Kelly Commolli, various players will see more match time and will need to step up as leaders.

“Both myself and the other juniors have had to step up and show some leadership because every year your role changes. For freshmen, you have to just listen and do your job; for sophomores, a little bit more responsibility; junior, you can’t mess up; senior — hopefully it’s all been figured out,” Panarese said.

Georgetown’s freshmen are Nicole Koskovolis, Daphne de Chatellus and Casey Marx. The returning players include sophomores Sophia Barnard, Victoire Saperstein, Madeline Foley and Margaret Psyhogeos. The juniors are Liselot Koenen, Mimi Lynham and Taylor Perz, while Panarese is the lone senior.

“We have a very young team and that’s probably the most exciting part about it,” Panarese said. “The best thing about that is that they’re just so excited to play, and that gives new energy to all the upperclassmen as well so we’re pumped for this weekend.”

Panarese, Koenen, Saperstein and Barnard will lead the Hoyas this season. These four played in every match for the Hoyas last year, including singles and doubles play.

“They’ve already been through the battles, so they get it and know what’s coming,” Head Coach Gordie Ernst said. “They help the younger ones and tell them, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to prepare for, and this is what we can expect against VCU, or St. Johns.’ That helps a lot.”

The 4-1 Invitational Match will test the experience of such players and determine how the Hoyas perform in a competitive setting. The match begins today with competitions against VCU and Norfolk State, while the match against Campbell will take place tomorrow.

“I like the fact that you throw them into the fire and see where we’re at,” Ernst said. “Getting them out there, getting them into some pressure situations, especially when preparing for St. John’s on Feb. 6 — that’s what it’s all about. You have to play matches to get ready for those matches.”

“VCU will be our toughest competition,” Panarese added. “They’re very good, very strong players. They hit extremely hard, but we’ve been training very hard, and I think we’re more ready this year than we have been in the past.”

As a whole, the Hoyas hold a positive and unified mentality as they begin the season. The leadership is strong, and regardless of wins or losses, Panarese knows that Georgetown’s squad’s work ethic is unbeatable.

“I can’t guarantee that we’re going to win every single match, because that’s impossible, but what I can guarantee is that we will not be outfought in one match. Our girls will fight harder than everyone because we’ve been working harder. There’s not a chance that other teams are working harder than us.”

“I’m so proud of them — they love the game, they love the sport, they’re fun to be around, they’ve worked so hard and Sophie’s a fantastic captain,” Ernst said. “So, win or lose this weekend, we’re going to give it our all.”

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