Women’s tennis midseason review: Straume impressing this spring
UNCW is 8-6 with two matches until the CAA Championship
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After losing a tiebreaker 7-5 in the first set versus Michigan State on March 10, UNC Wilmington’s No. 1 player Madara Straume told her coach Hans Olsen something that caught him a little off guard – that she was enjoying the day’s adventure.
“That’s pretty good after she loses the first set,” Olsen said. “She keeps playing. She really believes in what she’s doing. She doesn’t change it because she loses a set … She could have lost that match and she’d still be smiling, if you know Madara.”
Straume, a junior from Latvia, came to Wilmington after playing her first year at Louisiana State. Since arriving at UNCW, Straume has embraced the mid-major atmosphere. She is 12-2 in singles so far this spring and has teamed up with sophomore Sabrina Barisano to lead UNCW with a 10-2 record in doubles.
“I like to see each match as a new adventure to learn and as a new opportunity to kind of face yourself,” said Straume, “because you can’t run away from yourself when you’re on the court … It’s not always about execution; it’s about your intention.”
Straume has had notable wins at No. 1 versus in-state rival Davidson, Big Ten member Michigan State and conference opponents Elon and Drexel. Her dominant start has propelled UNCW to an 8-6 record with just two regular season matches to play until the conference tournament.
“For [Straume], tennis is like a little mini version of life,” said Olsen. “She likes to try different things that she takes as her philosophy, and she likes to try them in these pressure situations on the tennis court. Then she kind of applies it to the rest of her life.”
Annika Sillanpaa, a senior from Finland, is second on the team in singles wins with nine. Barisano and junior transfer Xandra Fougner each have eight. Senior Alix Theodossiou has six wins.
One of UNCW’s strengths this season has been doubles play. So far, the Seahawks have won 64 percent of their doubles matches. In their final season, Sillanpaa and Theodossiou have teamed up to win 8 out of 13 in doubles play.
UNCW faced one of its toughest opponents of the season on March 24 as Winthrop University stole a 5-2 decision from The Bird Cage. UNCW then bounced back the next day to beat Morgan State 7-0 on Saturday before conference rival Delaware edged the Seahawks 4-3 on Sunday to close out the weekend.
On April 1 and 2, the Hawks claimed a 4-3 win at Towson and a 6-1 win versus Drexel.
“I’ve been really proud of the team,” said Straume. “We’ve been working on creating more energy and creating that atmosphere where we help each other and where we encourage each other each day … I think we’ve been doing a better job across the board.”
UNCW takes on North Carolina Central on April 12 for Senior Day before the regular season wraps up at College of Charleston on April 14. The Colonial Athletic Association Championship begins on April 20 in Elon, N.C.
“I’ve definitely been coaching before where sometimes midseason can be kind of a holding on the vibe,” said Olsen, “but here I think we have really had some good training in the last week. There has definitely been a lift in the team’s chemistry and how they support each other has gone up a notch in a week.”
Notable – Last year’s team earned a No. 5 seed in the Colonial Athletic Association and lost in the quarterfinals of the CAA Championship to No. 4 College of Charleston 4-0. The 2016 CAA Champion was No. 1 William & Mary, currently ranked #49 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
Quote of the Day – “It’s kind of my home,” said Straume. “This is a place I think I will truly miss when I have to move on to the next stage in my life because of the environment and the people and their mentality. It’s great to have that encouraging environment around. That’s really a dream come true and that’s really special
Copy Editor Calvin Shomaker can be found on Twitter @cshomaker12. Any tips or suggestions should be directed via email to [email protected]