The University of Miami women’s tennis team is moving past the suspension of No. 2 singles player Kelsey Laurente, and evidence of that came in Friday’s 4-0 rout of unranked Boston University in the first round of the NCAA regional at Coral Gables.
Miami (20-5), ranked 12th in the nation, will play host to No. 18 Oklahoma (17-6) on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the regional final.
Canes coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said Laurente, a sophomore who was suspended for disciplinary reasons, will not return to the team this season. But the coach left open the possibility she could return next year.
With Laurente gone, everyone in the Canes’ lineup moved up one spot, and senior Brittany Dubins goes from the bench to No. 6 singles.
“[Laurente’s absence] doesn’t really affect us too much,” said Canes junior Lina Lileikite, who moved from No. 4 to No. 3 singles. “It was kind of like a smooth [transition].”
Laurente started this season superbly, going 12-2. But she finished in a slump (1-7) for an overall record of 13-9.
Yaroshuk-Tews said there was some frustration regarding the suspension, but it’s nothing she hasn’t dealt with before during a lengthy career that has seen her take the Hurricanes to five consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight.
“Kids do great things, kids make mistakes, and it’s all part of what we do here in college athletics,” she said. “It’s part of learning.
“From a coaching standpoint, it’s a little frustrating when kids make decisions, and then you have to hold them to those decisions. But it’s not our focus, and I told the girls before the tournament — this is the group I’d like to be moving forward with. These are the kids who earned the right to be here.”
Lileikite said she was happy for Dubins, who won 6-1, 6-1 on Friday in her first singles match since March 23. Dubins also combined with Melissa Bolivar to win their doubles match 8-0.
“She is killing it,” Lileikite said of Dubins, who improved to 3-5 this season in singles. “This is her last year, and she’s enjoying herself.”
Yaroshuk-Tews said that with the exception of her No. 1 singles player, Stephanie Wagner, the rest of her players are fairly “interchangeable.”
After Wagner, the Canes’ lineup now includes Clementina Riobueno, Lileikite, Bolivar, Monique Albuquerque, who has won a team-best 17 consecutive matches, and Dubins.
If that lineup is able to defeat Oklahoma, the Canes will be one of 16 teams advancing to the national championships May 15-20 in Athens, Georgia.
Oklahoma, which beat No. 55 Wichita State 4-2 earlier Friday, will have a challenge playing the higher-ranked Canes in the heat and on UM’s home courts.
“We play every single day in this sun,” Lileikite said. “For sure, it’s an advantage.”