Women’s tennis preview: Lady Seahawks look to improve with experienced roster


Alix Theodossiou prepares to return a ball during this past October’s Seahawk Invitational.

Calvin Shomaker | Copy Editor | @cshomaker12

Portions of this article appear in both the men’s and women’s tennis spring previews

Deep southern roots 

In the early 1990s, when UNC Wilmington’s head men’s tennis coach Mait DuBois was a senior in high school, he visited Charleston Southern on a recruiting trip. On the visit, he was hosted by UNCW’s now-second-year women’s coach Hans Olsen, who was a senior at CSU. Since then, the two have become close friends and have had brainstorming sessions about coaching tennis for nearly 20 years. Dubois served as Olsen’s assistant both at CSU and North Carolina State. He was in even Olsen’s wedding.

Before coming to UNCW, Olsen won four conference titles in five years as the men’s coach at CSU. At NCSU, as head women’s coach, he reached the NCAA Tournament five times.

In 1996, his senior year, DuBois was named the team captain and Most Valuable Player on a team that won a Big South Championship for CSU.

“I have tremendous respect for him as a coach,” Olsen said. “What he has done with this team specifically since he has been here has been amazing.”

Women’s preview

Coach Olsen’s philosophy preaches process over results. It helps the team focus less on winning and losing, he says, and more on the development. Given Olsen’s track record, something is working.

“We talk a lot about a very process-oriented environment,” Olsen said. “I think that really helps them. It helps them get to a healthier place with how much pressure they put on themselves.”

Olsen has seen the players let go of their innate perfectionism so that result-based anxieties can be lowered. This process-oriented approach is something Olsen hopes players can take with them to use into their everyday lives, relationships and the classroom.

The team closed out fall play on Oct. 30 at Virginia Tech’s Hokie Invitational, where senior Annika Sillanpaa won the consolation title in her bracket and junior Madara Straume appeared in the Maroon flight final. Sophomore Laura Gomez and freshman Celeste Matute took fifth place in the main doubles bracket of players from Virginia Tech, Radford, Virginia Commonwealth, James Madison, Towson, George Washington and Marshall.

At the fall’s premier event, the USTA-ITA Regional, Straume teamed up with sophomore Sabrina Barisano to defeat tandems from Campbell, North Carolina and N.C. State before falling in the quarterfinals to a duo from Duke.

At the two-day Seahawk Invitational on Oct. 1-2 the Seahawks finished 12-3 in singles and 6-2 in doubles against players from Campbell, UNC Greensboro and Virginia Tech.

The team will rely heavily on the experience of Straume, Sillanpaa and seniors Alix Theodossiou and Hollie Champion. Junior transfer Xandra Fougner adds depth to the squad of six upperclassmen and three underclassmen. Gomez and Straume are all-CAA performers from last season.

The women’s team starts spring play on Jan. 22 at noon when Furman visits UNCW. The Lady Seahawks will be at home 10 times.

NCAA rule change

Over the past two years the NCAA Division-I Tennis Committee has eliminated ad-point scoring and has cut doubles matches to just one set. This means that when the score is 40-40, also known as deuce, the game will be decided on the next point.

The NCAA and ITA accepted the rules in an attempt to shorten matches and improve the fan experience. Big time, game-deciding points are now a commonality in college tennis since the elimination of ad-scoring. With doubles matches being decided in one set, and no ad-scoring, tennis at the collegiate level has gotten faster, more exciting and more competitive.

In order to win the doubles team point, a team must win two of three doubles matches. If a team picks up the doubles point, it only needs 3 singles victories to clinch the team win with 4 points. Olsen said there were many matches that finished 4-3 last year in the conference. Oftentimes, the difference between a team winning and losing is the doubles point.

“It makes it easier for people watching,” Olsen said of the new rules. “It’s a lot faster. I think overall it’s good, as long as it’s the same for everybody.”