Feb. 1, 2007
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The UAB women's tennis team opens its 2007 spring season when it plays host to North Alabama at Brook Highland Racquet Club on Friday at 1 p.m. The match was originally scheduled for Thursday, however was postponed due to inclement weather.
The Blazers return all seven players from last season's squad that went 12-6 overall and has added one newcomer to brace itself for making a push at the upper tier of Conference USA.
Head coach Mert Ertunga is in his 14th season at the helm of the UAB program and enters the season just nine wins away from his 200th career triumph all-time. Ertunga says he is confident with the talent he has returning and believes there is no reason why they can't compete with the top teams in the league.
"We are expecting another good year and to push for the upper part of the conference," he said. "All the girls are back from last season's squad and this is a nucleus that we have had for three years in-a-row now."
Leading the pack of returnees are seniors Nischa Maier-Knapp and Julia von Samson who saw the majority of time at number one and two singles last season, respectively.
Maier-Knapp, a right-hander from Hausach, Germany, posted a record of 10-6 at number one singles last season while playing to an overall mark of 16-11 to tie for the team-lead in singles wins. Von Samson, an all-court player from March, Germany was 8-7 at number two singles while earning a 14-9 record overall.
"Nischa came to UAB as a baseliner who had an unflashy style of play but found a way to get the job done," Ertunga said. "Here we are four years later and she is a senior and has become our consistent number one player and deservedly so. She has developed into a very good doubles player as well and has improved more than anyone on the team through her hard work."
"Julia may be the most talented player of the team," Ertunga said. "On a given day, Julia could beat anybody. She used to be a one-dimensional player that just relied on her piercing ground strokes, but over time she has built confidence in the rest of her game and at this point has the best all-around game on the team."
Another senior expected to play high in the line-up is Anniemieke Eisholz from Waddinxveen, Netherlands. Eisholz played to a record of 12-14 in 2006, 8-9 at number three singles, while teaming up with von Samson to form the teams strongest doubles pairing. The tandem caught fire last spring to go 11-3 at number one doubles to improve to 15-4 overall.
"Anniemieke's game is based on an attacking style of play with her serve being the basis for the rest of her game," Ertunga said. "She has excellent hands at the net, which makes her the best doubles player on the team. She serves and volleys regularly which is rare in today's women's college tennis."
Junior Gulsah Esen of Istanbul, Turkey returns after playing to a 16-12 record overall in 2006, including a 7-7 mark at number four singles. In addition, she also teamed with Maier-Knapp to form a formidable number two doubles pairing.
"Gulsah is a player who has made an immediate impact on our program," Ertunga said. "Her game is based on powerful weapons, most notably her serve and big forehand. She is a far better match player than a practice player so I'm excited to see how she does this spring. She is a player that is able to come up with big shots on the important points."
Other returnees looking to see time this season are senior Samrin Tanzeem and juniors Antonia Nugent and Seden Soyalp.
Tanzeem, a grinding baseliner from Heidelberg, Germany, gained an immense amount of experience last season as she ranked third on the team with 15 wins due in part to play to a record of 10-6 in dual play, including a 4-0 mark at number four.
"Samrin has earned the respect of her teammates and opponents with her calculated baseline play that is dependant on endurance and consistency," Ertunga said. "She has won so many clutch matches for us and I have no doubt that we will depend on her again for her reliable and consistent performances."
Nugent saw limited time in dual matches last season, playing to a 6-3 record, however had a strong fall that helped earn her 14 wins for the year. In addition to her singles efforts, Nugent was also a key component of the Blazers number three doubles pairing that earned seven victories.
"Tootsie (Antonia) is the heart and soul of the team," Ertunga said. "She is the kind of person who keeps everyone up when they are feeling down. She has been one of the most dedicated workers we have ever had on our team and she has also been a consistent performer in the lower part of the lineup her first two season."
Soyalp also saw limited time in dual matches last season with most of her wins coming at number six singles where she played to a record of 4-5. She did however see a lot of court time in the fall as she combined for a record 13-7 for the year.
"Seden has not played regularly in our lineup due to the depth of the team but has been just as valuable as anyone else," Ertunga said. "For a program to function at its best, every team needs a player like Seden who practices hard, plays hard and supports everyone around her. She is a very good all-around player who has a variety of strokes."
With the return of seven players from last year's squad, only one newcomer gets added to the mix in 2007. Freshman Madelena Czernik joins the Blazers from Buchen, Germany where she played for Burghardt Gymnasium.