The Miami Hurricanes women’s tennis team is gearing up for what could be a “special year” in 2018.
That’s according to their coach, Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, who has two stars on her roster in Sinead Lohan and Estela Perez-Somarriba.
Other expected returners are rising senior Silvia Fuentes, juniors Ana Madcur and Yolimar Ogando and sophomores Dominika Paterova and Sara Culbertson.
In addition, the Canes are expected to land three top recruits for next season, two who arrive in the fall and the third in January.
But the headliners are rising sophomore Perez-Somarriba and rising senior Lohan.
Perez-Somarriba last week became the 28th All-American in program history. Yet, even with all those great stars in Miami history, she’s the first Hurricanes freshman to reach the NCAA singles championships semifinals.
She finished 34-7, including 5-1 against top-30 opponents.
“Estela is very confident,” Yaroshuk-Tews said, “very sure of herself.”
Then there’s Lohan, who is one of the most talented players in the country. She finished 38-8 as a freshman, reaching the NCAA quarterfinals. She went 40-6 as a sophomore and reached the NCAA semifinals.
This year, slowed by a sprained foot that hurt her fitness and her ability to push off, Lohan finished 23-13. She lost in the round of 64 in the NCAA singles championships, but there was a caveat to that result.
Lohan lost in three sets to Michigan’s Brienne Minor, who went on to win the national championship in a two-set final.
Still, Yaroshuk-Tews won’t deny that it was a disappointing season for Lohan, a fierce competitor who shies away from the spotlight.
Lohan, who played No. 2 singles in her first two years, moved up to the top spot this year. And when injuries hit several members of the team, she felt the pressure.
“You or I might feel that moving from two to one is a natural progression, but Sinead felt the [weight of] the team on her back,” Yaroshuk-Tews said.
“I think Sinead has learned her lesson. She’s going to kill it next year because that’s who she is. She’s a lion on the court.”
Shooting guard Laura Cornelius’ recent knee injury — she’s expected to miss the 2017-18 season — is bad news for the Hurricanes. Coupled with the expired eligibility of starting guards Jessica Thomas and Adrienne Motley and backup Nigia Greene, it leaves a huge void at the position.
Fortunately for the Canes, they signed a strong recruiting class of five guards, including Kelsey Marshall of Miami Country Day.
“Kelsey has all the tools to be star at next level,” Miami Country Day coach Ochiel Swaby said. “Her biggest adjustment will be playing with consistent energy on defense. She’s strong. She understands the game. But we played zone. She will be playing a lot more man defense in college.”
Barry’s Ahmed Triki, a senior from Tunisia, finished his career as an eight-time All-American, counting singles and doubles. That’s the first time that feat has been accomplished in Barry’s history.
Triki finished his final collegiate season ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division II in singles and No. 2 in doubles.
TRACK AND FIELD
Two FIU high-jumpers — senior Chris Sullivan on the men’s side and sophomore Clarissa Cutliff for the women — have qualified for the NCAA Championships June 7-10 at the University of Oregon.
In February, Cutliff, who is from Orlando, became a second-team All-American, finishing 13th in the NCAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Alabama. This will be the first championships for Sullivan, who is from Cocoa Beach.