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Maryland tennis turns to new leadership looking to jumpstart its program

State of the Program continues with a team entering a new coaching era.

Maryland women’s tennis

The Maryland sports offseason is here, and it was a wild year for Terrapin athletics. There were national championships in men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse, and a trip to the title game in field hockey. Maryland athletes won some of the highest honors in their sports. But there were also some lows, both on and off the field.

This summer, we’re going in-depth on every Maryland varsity program, taking a glimpse at where it’s been and where it’s going. We’ve broken down 13 teams thus far, and now we’ll take a look at tennis.

Maryland tennis

Established: 1977
All-time record: 349-480
Best season: 1977-78 (15-3, first round of NCAA/AIAW Tournament)
Last 5 years: 50-61
The coach: Katie Dougherty (first season)
2018-19: 3-18, 1-10 Big Ten

Where it’s been

Tennis has never been a strong suit for Maryland. Since being established in 1977, the program has made the NCAA Tournament seven times and lost in the first round of each. The team has also never won a conference championship, or even made it past the quarterfinals of a conference tournament.

Over the past 15 years, the Terps have produced just two winning seasons, posting a total record of 127-201. When Daria Panova arrived before the 2012 season, Maryland had just three players on its roster. While the team turned around and posted a 16-6 record in 2017, it wasn’t able to build on that success. Last season was especially bad for the Terps, finishing with a 3-18 record, finding only one Big Ten victory.

Where it’s going

Maryland did not renew Panova’s contract following the 2019 season. Now the program is under the leadership of Katie Dougherty, who was hired on July 2 after serving as the associate head coach for the past three seasons.

The school announced the hiring of Dan Pollock as Dougherty’s associate head coach Thursday. Pollock is an incredible hire for the struggling program, and quite frankly, it seems like he’s taking a step down. He was the head coach of Butler men’s tennis last season, leading the Bulldogs to a program-record 21 wins and a Big East semifinals appearance. Before that, Pollock spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Utah, helping take the program to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 21 years. He’s also coached at BYU, Idaho and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The Terps are hoping to turn the program around under a new coaching staff, but it will be an uphill battle to say the least. However, they’ll have one of the best recruits in the country, five-star Ayana Akli, to help them do so as she starts her freshman year in College Park.

Names to know

Maryland returns most of its talent from last season, but lost seniors Millie Stretton and Arnelle Sullivan to graduation. Stretton played a big role for the team, tallying eight doubles victories and six wins in singles matches.

The Terps will look at rising juniors Eva Alexandrova and Zoe Kulkarni to lead the program. Alexandrova played with Stretton to win seven doubles matches, while also finding victory in an additional doubles match and five singles matches. Kulkarni won five singles matches as well.

Akli should be a key piece for Maryland as well. She is ranked as the No. 15 recruit in the country by Babolat and is a two-time Maryland state singles champion.

The mission

Given its history and recent struggles, it’s impractical to say the team should make an NCAA Tournament appearance next season. But if Maryland hopes to get there in the years to come, it needs to start developing its players better. The team had talent across the board last season but failed to get the results it needed out of it. The Terps will look to the new coaching staff to change that.