After going 16-6 in 2017, the Maryland tennis team couldn’t quite repeat that success last season, going 11-13 and 5-8 in the Big Ten. But the Terrapins could be back on the upswing, as head coach Daria Panova’s squad returns most of last year’s team and added a former five-star recruit via transfer.
The graduation of Ekaterina Tour left an opening on the Maryland roster for the 2019 season. Luckily, the Terps used the transfer market to their advantage for the second consecutive year, landing Amber Policare from the University of Kansas. The former No. 1 high school player in New York went 3-5 in doubles and 2-8 in singles as a Jayhawk.
The other seven players who were on Maryland’s roster last season are all back for 2019, including the two top players from last season in Eva Alexandova and Millie Stretton. Panova expects another year of experience to help her team, as the players are all more familiar with the college game and how to handle it.
“It’s always, you know what to expect and you know how to prepare for matches,” Panova said. “You know what you could be. ... You’re more confident and you know what to expect.”
Alexandrova was a star for the Terps as a freshman last year, making the All-Big Ten team. She had 11 singles wins and 16 doubles wins, all of which came when partnered with Stretton. Stretton was a transfer from Kansas State, and in her first season as a Terp, she co-starred on the top doubles team with Alexandrova. Aside from her 16 doubles wins, the senior also had 16 wins in singles matches.
Arnelle Sullivan, who was Tour’s doubles partner and a singles-match fixture, is back for her senior year. Zoe Kulkarni, who was prominently featured in singles matches last season, and Anastasiia Gevel are back for their sophomore year, while Saya Usui and Katsiaryna Yemelyanenka have returned for their junior seasons.
The Terps began their 2019 season on Sunday at Navy, where Maryland fell 4-3. In doubles play, the teams of Kulkarni/Usui and Stretton/Policare lost their matches. In singles play, Stretton was the only player to win her game before Navy grabbed a 4-1 lead to seal the win.
Panova cited first-match jitters, especially by Policare, as a reason for the flat start but she was excited with the effort that her players showed.
“They were fighting and they never gave up, but it was just too late to come back,” Panova said.
In the doubles session, Panova chose to break up last year’s strong duo of Alexandova and Stretton on Sunday, and the doubles point, which Maryland won so often last year, went to Navy. Panova said to expect a shuffle of doubles pairings over the next few matches because “we’re just trying to find the best combinations.”
The game marked the first of 21 matches that Maryland will play this spring. The home opener is Thursday against Georgetown, while Big Ten action for the Terps begins March 9 against Rutgers.