The University of Miami women’s tennis team qualified for the NCAA Division I national championships on Saturday, which begs an answer to one extremely simple question.
That question would be is how will Miami do in a tournament consisting of the best 16 teams in the nation?
The answer from UM, coming from both coaches and players, was also extremely simple and confident: Why not us?
“I think there are six or seven teams that can win it this year, and that includes us,” UM coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said after her team defeated both North Florida, in a lightning delayed-match from Friday, and Purdue.
One of the UM players, Clementina Riobueno, was even more assertive than her coach.
“We expect to kill in that tournament,” she said. “We can be national champs as a team.”
It was Riobueno who clinched Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Purdue for UM, which is ranked No. 6 in the nation. In fact, it was the entire bottom of the UM lineup — the No. 4, 5 and 6 players of Riobueno, Monique Albuquerque and Melissa Bolivar — who accounted for UM’s final three deciding points after the Hurricanes took the first point in doubles competition.
“This is so good,” said Riobueno, a freshman from Venezuela. “I’m so excited to be going to the Sweet 16 and being a part of this team and the university. I just love it here.”
Yaroshuk-Tews called Riobueno “the magician of the team. She has every shot in the book. She won’t be a No. 4 player for long, but right now she’s an unbelievable No. 4 to have.”
In some ways, Saturday was a strange day for the Hurricanes. The rain-and-lightning delay while playing North Florida on Friday left them two points shy of a 4-0 victory. The Canes then showed up at 10:30 a.m. Saturday for a 45-second conclusion to that match. “That was crazy,” Yaroshuk-Tews said.
So not much sweat was expended there before taking on Purdue, ranked 30th in the nation, at 1 p.m., and once again UM showed its dominance, winning 4-0. And, once again, there were two lightning delays.
Miami will enter the national title tournament with plenty of confidence but little experience on the roster. There are no seniors playing for the Canes, with four freshmen on the eight-person roster.
Nevertheless, Yaroshuk-Tews said: “I’ve never coached a team as deep as this group.”
So what will happen between now and the start of the NCAA tournament in Urbana, Ill., on Friday?
“We leave on Wednesday,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “Meanwhile, we’ll just try to not get too excited.”
And asked how her team will perform, she promised: “We’ll do just fine.”