Women’s Tennis | Young Team Hunts for Big East Title

The Georgetown women’s tennis team will kick off its spring season with its first match against the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The team was supposed to play Princeton for its first scheduled match Saturday, Jan. 23, but a cancellation due to weather conditions granted the team another week to prepare for its new season opener against Navy. The match will end a three-monthlong hiatus from competitive play. The team hopes to carry the momentum gained from the end of the fall season into the new year, with its sights set high for the coming season.

Head Coach Gordie Ernst emphasized the potential he believes the team has this year.
“I’m careful not to be too optimistic and too hopeful at the beginning of the year, but we’re always hopeful and this year especially. I mean, it’s probably the deepest team we’ve ever had, maybe Georgetown’s ever had, in terms of the depth. The number of girls that can play big matches, the number of girls that can step in and play in the lineup, and that’s a good thing,” Ernst said.

Perhaps equally as encouraging as the depth of the team is the talent of its youth. The three freshmen on the team — Sydney Goodson, Cecilia Lynham and Risa Nakagawa — play a very significant role in what is only a 13-person roster.

Junior captain Victoire Saperstein was quick to praise the young players on the team.

“They’re phenomenal,” Saperstein said. “They don’t know the college competition format yet because the spring is different than the fall, but I think the rest of the team has really shown them the thirst that we have to compete and to win against the teams we competed against last year, either in continuing our record against them or getting our revenge.”

The combination of the leadership and young talent could take the team far this year. Ernst echoed Saperstein’s sentiment, emphasizing the role of the younger players.

“They can punch above their weight, no question about it,” Ernst said. “It’s just can they do it in pressure situations, and that’s the key and the good players can. You know, the thing I’ve struggled with over the years with both teams is that they still find ways to put pressure on themselves when we’re playing a team that’s favored and that doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s when you play a team like Navy who we beat last year. … Those are the teams where we should feel more pressure because it’s just tighter. We’re the favored team and that’s where if we can conquer that type of issue, we’ll be much better off for it.”

The opening match of the season will be critical for Georgetown. In the past two meetings with Navy, the sides split victories. The Hoyas fell in a tight 4-3 match in 2014 but recovered with a comfortable 6-1 win last season.

Aside from the pressure that the favored matchup yields, Ernst noted the unique challenge Navy presents each year.

“You can never go off previous scores with Navy. It’s the Naval Academy, they have a great facility, and they have a coach that goes out there and recruits,” Ernst said. “I don’t know who they have new this year but it’ll be a better team there’s no question about that. Last year we won. … But you know what happens with nerves and pressure, it changes everything.”

A solid performance would kick off the campaign for which the team is striving. Saperstein differentiated between the team’s external and internal goals, saying the team aims to both work harder themselves and win the Big East.

“Internally our goals are to go out and play every match like it’s our last. Fighting, working really hard are all very important things and things that Coach Ernst stresses a lot and something the whole team focuses on,” Saperstein said. “We have a lot of girls this year and everyone is really fighting, looking to get a spot on the lineup and we’re all really pushing for wins. Externally we want to win the Big East and that’s something that we’re really looking out for this year.”

Ernst agreed.

“The girls are hungry for titles. There’s no question about it,” Ernst said.

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