WVU opens fall season in UNC-Wilmington Invitational
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 07:09
The West Virginia women’s tennis team will embark on the toughest schedule in the program’s history this weekend when it competes in the UNC-Wilmington Invitational.
Third-year head coach Tina Samara is finally starting to see evidence of the foundation she has laid and is primed to take the Mountaineers to the next level of women’s college tennis.
"This is the most excited I have been since I’ve been here," Samara said. "We
finally have six players who can compete at every spot.
"I don’t think there will be one bracket (at the UNC-Wilmington Invitational) where we are going to be weak."
The Mountaineers will begin their fall season, comprised of every tournament, at the UNC-Wilmington Invitational for the second consecutive year. Joining West Virginia at the invitational are UNC-Wilmington, Charleston Southern and Virginia Commonwealth University. The tournament will feature four brackets on the women’s side and will be played at the Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C.
While Samara is excited about the skill level of her team, one aspect of the game the Mountaineers lack is experience. The only members of last season’s team returning are senior Emily Mathis and sophomore Ikttesh Chahal.
Mathis returns from last year when she played No. 1 singles for most of the season, until she suffered a nagging stomach strain injury. The Flower Mound, Texas native led last year’s squad with four wins in the No. 1 singles spot.
Chahal, from Chandigarh, India, returns for her sophomore year following a season of inconsistency. After struggling with the No. 3 singles spot last season, Chahal eventually found her stride, winning her last four matches.
Samara knows what she is going to get out of Mathis and Chahal, but it is the new class of Mountaineers that the former All-
American player turned coach looks forward to seeing most this weekend.
"I am sure there will be a little bit of shock in the beginning with the level (of play)," Samara said. "Hopefully they come back after and realize they have to work extremely hard after."
The prize of Samara’s recruiting class is Lansing, Mich., native Hailey Barret. Barret, a five-star recruit according to TennisRecruiting.net, joins the Mountaineers ranked No. 66 in the country.
The other two freshmen in this year’s recruiting class come from outside the United States. Vivian Tsui comes to Morgantown from Port Coquitlam,
British Columbia, while Irinka Toidze joins the Mountaineers all they way from Tbilisi, Georgia. Tsui and Toidze will team up with Cahall and redshirt freshman Jade Allen, a London, England, native who sat out last season.
Samara has a very international feel to her roster.
"There are multiple (advantages of international players) that aren’t even tennis related," Samara said. "Learning about different cultures and languages and just the experience of what college should be, but I think there are a lot of times where they tend to come in and are a little more appreciative about what they are getting."
One member of the recruiting class who brings experience to the Mountaineers is senior Audrey Wooland, who transferred from Louisiana- Lafayette, where she was recruited by Samara before she took the West Virginia job.
With the best recruiting class in recent program history, Samara is using the tough schedule to propel her team to championship level.
"You have to play the best to be the best," Samara said.