March 16, 2001
The UAB women's tennis team has started its spring season off on a perfect foot. A 12-0 perfect foot that is. The 64th-ranked Blazers have had their best start in school history.
"I would say the biggest difference this year has been the depth that the freshman have brought to our team," said head coach ,Mert Ertunga . "Also when you get 4 new girls, that means half of your team is practically new and you are likely to have a team who may have adaptation problems or maybe some personality conflicts, etc., but not with this freshman group! They are terrific girls who are responsible, competitive and coachable. They also buy into the team concept very well. I could not have been any luckier.
All four freshmen have contributed to fall and spring season play. Margaux Melsheimer , a native of Oberkirch, Germany, leads the freshmen with a 12-0 singles record in dual match play (21-5 overall) and 11-2 doubles record with freshman partner Femke deBoer . During the fall, she advanced to the finals of the Georgia Tech/Holiday Inn Midway North Invitational before falling to senior teammate Mirela Vladulescu , and won the consolation finals at the Middle Tennessee Fall Invitational. In fall doubles, Melsheimer and deBoer won the consolation finals in their flight at the June Stewart Invitational. Even sweeter for Melsheimer, she was recently named C-USA Player of the Week for March 5.
Freshman Tanja Pflugfelder , a native of Freiburg, Germany is 7-3 in dual match play this spring with an overall record of 16-7. She and sophomore Natascha Immele went 9-3 in doubles play during the fall winning their flight at the Georgia Tech/Holiday Inn Midtown North Invitational. Nadia Dellarciprete of Dandenong, Australia is 2-0 in dual match singles and 7-5 overall. In the fall, she and partner Sjouke Liem went 5-0 in doubles play, winning their flights at the Middle Tennessee Fall Invitational and June Stewart Invitational. A native of Hazerswoude, Netherlands, deBoer is 8-1 in dual match play and 14-9 overall.
"In the past we have relied heavily on Mirela and Monika Schmid , but this year we are much deeper down the line, thanks to some improved play from our returners and our freshman who are solid players," said Ertunga. "A perfect example was against Middle Tennessee. Mirela and Monika had a rare loss in doubles at no. 1. In the past two years, that would have spelled doom for us but this time our no. 2 and no. 3 doubles pulled through for us to collect the doubles point. And those two teams are composed of one sophomore and three freshmen! Mirela and Monika have always been good performers for us and continue to be this season. We have also had good performances by the rest of the lineup composed mostly of freshmen."
The freshmen are not the only ones who produce results on the court. Vladulescu, a senior from Leimen, Germany is 11-0 in dual match play (21-1 overall) and 9-2 in doubles play with partner Monika Schmid. She is currently ranked 26th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Associations (ITA) national ranking, but has been ranked as high as no. 1. She is the first tennis player in UAB history (men's or women's) to be ranked no. 1 in the ITA poll. During the same year she won numerous awards including ITA Rookie of the year, ITA Regional Rookie of the Year, C-USA Most Valuable Player and C-USA Freshman of the year. She was the first UAB women's tennis player to earn NCAA All-American honors and go to the quarterfinals of the NCAA championships. During her sophomore year, she had shoulder problems and was forced to serve underhand. Despite the pain and the underhand serves, Vladulescu finished the season with a 16-3 overall dual match play record at no. 1 singles defeating six ranked singles players and one ranked doubles team, putting her in the 35th-ranked spot at the end of the season. During her junior year, she had shoulder surgery and sat out the fall season hoping it would help. It didn't, and during the spring she continued to play, serving underhand. With her 18-2 overall record, she was named Co-C- USA Most Valuable Player. Currently, she is still serving underhand with a perfect record this season and has already defeated two ranked players.
Senior, Kristina Wilson is an interesting contrast to Vladulescu. A native of Lawrenceville, Ga., and the only American on the team, she hasn't played much, but is as valuable to the team as any of the other players. "She is an incredible team player, a great spirit lifter, is always encouraging the team and her attitude toward practice and the team is great," said Ertunga.
Schmid, a junior from Siegsdorf, Germany is another Blazer with a perfect record. She is 12-0 in dual match play with an overall record of 20-5. She has been named C-USA Freshman of the Year, First Team All-C-USA and Second Team All-C-USA. Liem, a junior from Dordrecht, Holland has also been a factor for the Blazers. She is 2-2 in dual match play at the no. 6 spot.
"One player that gets overlooked a lot is my only sophomore on the line-up, Natascha Immele ," said Ertunga. "Mirela & Monika and the freshmen get a lot of attention, but Natascha is easily the most improved player on the team and is now realizing she is capable of beating good players if she believes in herself and her game plan. She deserves the success too, as she has been coming to practice for over a year now always focused and willing to put 100 percent effort. She was not a regular in the lineup last year, but this year she has been a solid player at the no. 4 position. However I probably will still not be satisfied with her since I believe that with her potential she could even improve so much more."
The Blazers are still only partway through their season. Even though they have defeated ranked teams such as Auburn and Middle Tennessee , they still have to face such ranked teams as Princeton , Mississippi State , Alabama and Houston .
"We still have a lot to accomplish and are only halfway through the season," says Ertunga. "As long as the girls don't get too high and stay focused on working on their weaknesses instead of thinking they are invincible, we have a chance for this season to be a special one. At this point, we need to stay focused on winning the next match rather than focusing on `staying undefeated', or `our record'."
"This is a great group and I am sure they will put out their maximum effort to reach our goal."