By JOSH FURNARY
The beginning of the 2012/ 2013 tennis season for both the men and women kicked off this past weekend with high expectations. The Univerity Mary Washington hosted a tournament that included six visiting schools in what is coined “the UMW Kickoff Tournament.”
Both men and women faced off against Division I schools, such as Georgetown, George Mason, Delaware State University, Longwood, North Carolina Wesleyan and Washington & Lee
The tournament took place Saturday and Sunday on over 24 separate courts, spanning three locations. Both the indoor and outdoor facilities were used at the UMW Tennis Center, as well as local public courts at Kenmore Park on Kenmore Avenue. Saturday’s tournament focused on the athletes playing two singles matches and one doubles match, while Sunday focused on two doubles matches and one singles.
The fall home opener was met with what can be described as mixed angst, and anticipation. For the upperclassmen, the fall tournament was an opportunity to shake summer’s cobwebs off and reassert their skills on the court. The brilliant sun and cool fall breeze seemed to stifle many player’s apprehension and further energized the weekend’s play. However, for the freshman, feelings were different. Woman’s tennis freshmen Mackenzie Smith from Lancaster, Pa. had a lot on her mind as she entered the weekend’s games.
The weekend, “was nerve-wracking compared to high school,” Smith said. “The expectations are high. A year ago, I didn’t need to prove myself, but now I feel I need to prove to my teammates and coach I can contribute here.”
Meanwhile, the returners felt far more comfortable.
Junior women’s tennis player Maddy Martin said the tournament was, “a great way to work back into your groove, get out the kinks, prepare for ITA’s [Intercollegiate Tennis Association fall regional], and gear up for the long spring season to come.”
The Women’s tennis team has much to look forward to this season. Junior Anna Richman said, “With seven new freshman, all of whom have great potential, the expectations are high. We definitely have the ability and potential to succeed and make a deep push into the NCAA tournament.”
Not to mention junior All-American Lindsay Raulston from Franklin, Va. and a strong returning class.
The Men’s program, led by head coach Todd Helbling, came out over the weekend with a lot to prepare for as well. Similar to the women, the men are using the fall to further prepare for the challenges awaiting them in the spring.
Last year the team finished 21st overall in Division III. This season, the team has much higher expectations.
Junior Alex Blakhin from Moscow Russia, said “The weekend’s tournament was a step in the right direction. But, ultimately, by spring the team hopes to be competing well against nationally ranked teams and make to the NCAA Elite Eight.”
Tennis is extremely popular internationally, and the men’s program shows signs of strength and notoriety by virtue of now brandishing two international student-athletes. Junior Alex Blakhin hails from Moscow, Russia and is entering his third season with the Eagles, while freshman David Lunding-Johansson from Stockholm, Sweden made his college debut on Saturday. Lunding-Johansson played well as the only men’s freshman beating Longwood junior Edward Becker from Sydney, Australia.
The men will be back in action this Saturday at the George Mason Invitational while the woman get into the Fall ITA Regionals back at the UMW Tennis Center.