March 4, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Nine days since its last match, the Michigan State women's tennis team returns to action this week as it heads to Tampa, Fla., for a pair of neutral site matches. Under the warm Florida sun, MSU (10-2) will square off with Niagara on Wednesday at 9 a.m., and Mercer on Friday at 10 a.m. Both matches will be held on the outdoor Varsity Tennis Courts on the campus of South Florida.
The Spartans are coming off their longest time in between matches all season. Prior to the break, MSU defeated in-state foe Western Michigan, 6-1, on Feb. 21, and then turned around a day later to sweep a doubleheader of matches on Feb. 23, taking down Milwaukee, 6-1, and Wright State 7-0.
During the Feb. 23 doubleheader, 10 different Spartans found their way into the starting lineup and, in fact, including exhibition matches from that day, all 13 Spartans on the roster saw court time.
Feb. 23 marked the third and final doubleheader on the schedule for MSU. The Spartans are 6-0 this season when playing a doubleheader.
A member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Purple Eagles hold a 3-2 record thus far into the 2014 season. Anthony Nguyen is in his sixth season leading the program. Niagara's resume includes wins over Robert Morris, RIT and Binghamton. Duquesne and Buffalo are the two defeats.
Sophomore Sarah Hellstern has played all five matches on court one of singles and is 3-2 on the season. Combined as a team, Niagara is 16-14 (.533) in singles.
In doubles, Hellstern and freshman Paulina Velasquez are 3-2, including a 2-2 mark on the top court. The Purple Eagles are just 7-8 (.467) in doubles as a team.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools under Coach Jardim. This will also be the first time MSU has faced a MAAC opponent under Jardim.
The Mercer Bears post a 4-6 record. Competing in the Atlantic Sun, Mercer also has matches March 4 and 5 prior to playing MSU. Eric Hayes is in his first season at the helm of Mercer.
Sophomore Danielle Jones has played the majority of the matches on singles court one, posting a 5-3 record. Jones has won her last three matches in a row. Combined as a team, the Bears are just 22-32 (.407) overall in singles.
Jones teams with senior Lucie Payrat in the alleys and the duo is 4-1 on the top court. The Bears are 11-11 as a team in doubles, using seven different team combinations in the spring season.
Friday's match will be the first meeting between the schools under Jardim.
MSU is 0-1 all-time under Jardim facing Atlantic Sun opponents. MSU fell to Stetson on March 4, 2012, in a match held in Deland, Fla.
Two players on the roster come to East Lansing by way of the Sunshine State. Junior Julianne Gruber is from Palm Harbor, which is located about 25 miles away from Tampa. Freshman Athena Trouillot is originally from Miami.
Gruber was a member of Calvary Christian High School's varsity tennis team. Among her high school and junior tennis accomplishments in Florida include: qualifying for the semifinals of the 2010 Jupiter Ocean Girls 18 Dec Designated, semifinalist at the 2010 Florida Open Championships, advanced to the round of 16 at the 2010 USTA National Opens, placed third at the 2010 Agassi National Championships, and she was also voted a two-time captain of her high school team. This season, Gruber is 3-0 in singles play, seeing action on courts five and six. She is also 5-3 in doubles play this season, pairing with Emily Meyers.
Trouillot attended MCA Academy in Miami. She was ranked as high as No. 63 nationally and No. 14 in the state of Florida during her junior days. Some of her other junior accomplishments include: 2012 BMW Girls 18 Super Series Champion, singles quarterfinalist in the 2012 USTA Regional Tournament Segment Girls 18, and third place at the 2012 North Florida Junior Designated Girls 18. This season, Trouillot is 9-2 in singles play during the spring dual season, spending time on courts five and six. She also pairs with classmate Anna Zelechonok in doubles, with the duo going 2-4 on court three.
Bohrer Tied on Top
Senior Marina Bohrer has a chance to become the school's all-time singles career wins leader with just one more win. With the win Feb. 23 against Wright State, Bohrer pushed her career singles record up to 64-39. She is currently tied with Christine Bader, who is 64-62, and Jessica Baron, who is 64-33, atop the list. Bohrer is currently 12-4 overall for the 2013-14 season. Bohrer tabbed a 22-15 mark her freshman season, 12-7 her sophomore year, and an 18-13 mark last season. In the fall of 2013, Bohrer was selected to the prequalifying singles bracket of the 2013 Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Championships. Bohrer was the first Spartan to compete in the prestigious, nationally-recognized event during Simone Jardim's tenure as head coach.
Meyers One of the Best through Two Years
Sophomore Emily Meyers has been a valuable contributor to the program since coming to campus in the fall of 2012. In fact, with a current overall singles record of 31-21, Meyers ranks tied for fourth all-time in school history on most career wins through two seasons. She is tied with Stephanie Kebler, who posted 31 wins between 2006-07. Of course, Meyers still has the rest of the season to move up the list. Alicia Leone is in first with a 42-10 mark through two seasons, Sarah Andrews is second at 41-33, and Monty Gettys and Christine Bader are tied for third with 37 wins apiece.
Best Team Start since 2006-07
At the beginning of the spring season, head coach Simone Jardim noted this year could be a "breakthrough year for our team." Off to a 10-2 start this season, MSU has tied its best record to start a season since 2006-07 when it went 10-2 as well. 10-2 is also the best start MSU has had under Jardim, who is in her sixth year leading the program.
As far as what lies ahead for the team, Jardim has noted all year her team has the capabilities and shots to be able to compete with any team, but they just need to continue to have a winning mindset.
"It's up to them," she said on Feb. 23. "There's only so much we as coaches can do. I believe they are good, it's a matter of if they can believe it. If they can think, `OK, this is going to happen,' then anything is possible. We can definitely get out of the bottom of the Big Ten and even through the middle of it. It's in their hands, they go out and play. If they can get their mind into it, anything can happen."
To start the season, MSU has won the doubles point in 10 of its first 12 matches. The Spartans are 9-1 when winning the doubles point, and 1-1 when losing the doubles point. As a team, the Spartans combine for a 24-9 doubles record during spring dual play. MSU is 10-1 on the top court, and 7-4 on each of courts two and three.
Three freshmen have played a critical role in the Spartans' early season success thus far on both the singles and doubles courts. Athena Trouillot has spent time on courts four and five of singles and on mostly court three in doubles. In fact, she pairs with fellow newcomer Anna Zelechonok on court three of doubles, and the duo is 2-4 this season.
Trouillot's current overall singles record of 16-4 is tied for sixth in school history for most wins by a first-year player.
Erin Faulkner has held down the No. 2 singles court for almost every match this season. Faulkner is 11-6 overall for the season, including a 7-2 mark on court two of spring dual play matches. Faulkner's 11 wins are nearing the eighth spot on the school's all-time wins list for a first-year player. The eighth spot has 14 wins.
Combined for the dual spring season, MSU has a 55-17 record in singles. Faulkner, who is 7-3, and Trouillot, who is 9-2, have accounted for 16 of those wins, which makes up 29%.
Looking Ahead to Big Ten
After the Spartans return from Florida, they will have about a week to prepare for their Big Ten home opener against No. 13 Michigan on March 16 at 2 p.m. Overall, six Big Ten teams are nationally ranked, including No. 7 Northwestern, No. 13 Michigan, No. 27 Illinois, No. 39 Purdue, No. 52 Ohio State and No. 53 Indiana. Of those ranked, MSU will play Michigan, Northwestern and Illinois at home.