UNCW dominates weekend’s Seahawk Invitational

Alix Theodossiou (left) and Annika Sillanpaa

Calvin Shomaker | Assistant Copy Editor | @cshomaker12

The UNC Wilmington women’s tennis team has looked like a Colonial Athletic Association title contender in its first two tournaments of the fall.

Four Seahawks returned to Wilmington with first place trophies after last month’s College of Charleston Invitational. Junior Madara Straume and freshman Celeste Matute won individual singles brackets while the team of Hollie Champion and Xandra Fougner captured a doubles title.

On Oct. 1-2 the Lady Seahawks dominated the UNCW Seahawk Invitational by winning 18 of 23 matches in their only home appearance of the fall. After rain canceled Friday’s matches, the Seahawks soared on Saturday by winning 6 of 8 singles matches against Virginia Tech and 3 of 4 in doubles versus Campbell.

On Sunday, UNCW won 6 of 7 singles matches against Campbell after winning 3 of 4 in doubles vs. UNC Greensboro. Sabrina Barisano, Annika Sillanpaa, Fougner, and Straume all finished the two-day tournament undefeated in singles and doubles competition.

The team’s strong start is evidence of the program’s progress under the guidance of second-year head coach Hans Olsen and his staff.

“We have a very process-oriented focus and our process for the last few weeks has been court movement,” Olsen said. “The players did a great job keeping their mind on the movement work in the matches this weekend. It is very difficult as an athlete to take your mind off of the score during competition and put your thoughts on the process. Our team did a wonderful job.”

Olsen was the head women’s coach at N.C. State from 2001-2014 and at Charleston Southern, his alma mater, from 1996-2001. He has led his teams to four conference championships and has coached in the NCAA Tournament eight times.

Olsen and his assistants, John Ware and Christa Macsay, schedule weekly meetings with each player. These evaluations help the players stay focused on the processes the coaches encourage. It also helps the players build meaningful relationships with the coaches.

“What I really like is they try to engage us in the process and they listen to what we have to say,” said Straume, who won the Latvian National Women’s Double’s championship this summer. “I never feel any pressure results-wise from them. All the time they keep the focus more on the tournaments and where we are.”

This year’s team has six upperclassmen that will be leaders for Barisano, Matute, and sophomore Laura Gomez. Sillanpaa won Finland’s national double’s title over the summer and Fougner has played internationally in France and Norway. The experience and poise of UNCW’s veterans and international talent has been a cornerstone of the team’s fast start.

“The leadership has been tremendous,” said Olsen.  “They really set the tone this weekend for how we want to support each other as a team. This is a special group of leaders and they are leaving their mark on our women’s tennis program.” 

For Olsen, the relationships he builds with his players go deeper than tennis.

“The main concept of our women’s tennis program is the process-oriented focus,” said Olsen. “We teach that you can take the formula of a process and apply it to any area of your life. I hope that our players are learning to make a process out of their studies, their daily routines, their health and their hobbies.”

Olsen’s process-driven approach has resonated with his players and has helped them in more aspects of life than tennis.

“He is a teacher for me, not only a tennis coach,” said Straume. “He challenges me on a different level and we understand each other very well. I feel like I can trust him to the point where I can tell him everything about my life.”

Straume, who transferred to UNCW from Louisiana State University last season, said Olsen’s personable coaching is a refreshing change from LSU’s authoritative, result-oriented coaching.

Selected players will compete in the N.C. Central Invitational in Durham and the ITA Regionals in Chapel Hill which begin on Oct. 20. Afterward, the team will travel to Virginia Tech on Oct. 28 for a three-day tournament prior to a two-month break. The spring season begins on Jan. 22 at noon when UNCW takes on Furman University at home.

Saturday Results | Oct. 1, 2016

Singles vs. Virginia Tech

Madara Straume (UNCW) d. Sansitha Nandakumar (VT), 6-3, 6-0

Annika Sillanpaa (UNCW) d. Sarah Baron (VT), 6-4, 6-4

Nancy Ghanem (VT) d. Alix Theodossiou (UNCW), 6-4, 6-3

Shene Disbergen (VT) d. Laura Gomez (UNCW), 7-6 (5), 6-3

Xandra Fougner (UNCW) d. Katherine Butler (VT), 6-2, 2-6, 14-12

Sabrina Barisano (UNCW) d. McKenzie Collins (VT), 3-6, 6-4, 10-8

Celeste Matute (UNCW) d. Luisa Uscocovich (VT), 4-6, 7-5, 11-9

Thai Thompson (UNCW) d. Sloan Barton (VT), 6-3, 6-2

Doubles vs. Campbell

Annika SillanpaaAlix Theodossiou (UNCW) d. Isabel Boada-Georgina Segarra (CU), 7-5

Madara StraumeSabrina Barisano (UNCW) d. Alexandra Andrivot-Pauline Roustan (CU), 6-2

Alexandra Nicoara-Lea Cuture (CU) d. Laura GomezThai Thompson (UNCW), 6-2

Xandra FougnerCeleste Matute (UNCW) d. Mia Covic-Huda McGraw (CU), 6-1

Sunday Results | Oct. 2, 2016

Singles vs. Campbell

Madara Straume (UNCW) d. Alexandra Andrivot (CU), 6-7 (12), 6-0, 1-0 (7-5)

Annika Sillanpaa (UNCW) d. Georgina Segarra (CU), 6-0, 6-1

Alix Theodossiou (UNCW) d. Alexandra Nicoara (CU), 6-2, 2-6, 1-0 (12-10)

Laura Gomez (UNCW) d. Lea Coture (CU), 6-3, 5-7, 1-0 (10-8)

Xandra Fougner (UNCW) d. Pauline Roustan (CU), 6-2, 6-2

Sabrina Barisano (UNCW) d. Isabel Boada (CU), 6-3, 6-2

Celeste Matute (UNCW) vs.  Mia Covic  (CU), 3-6, 7-6, DNF

Nina Asanin (CU) d. Thai Thompson (UNCW), 6-1, 6-3

Doubles vs. UNC Greensboro

Madara StraumeSabrina Barisano (UNCW)  d. Masey DeMoss-Blaine Boaz (UNCG), 6-3

Annika SillanpaaAlix Theodossiou (UNCW) d. Nancy Bridges-Corinne Blythe (UNCG), 6-2

Xandra FougnerCeleste Matute (UNCW) d. Yasmin Franco-Alice Taylor (UNCG), 7-6 (1)

Sarah Swiderski-Sophia Adams (UNCG) d. Thai ThompsonLaura Gomez (UNCW), 6-1