Women's tennis finally starting to hit its strideBy Mike Schwartz | 03/29/2017 11:01pm
In what was an eventful weekend, the Alabama women’s tennis team split the pair of its matches against two of their toughest opponents they’ve faced all year.
After walking away victorious in the upset over the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats 4-2, the team struggled against Vanderbilt. Their record dropped back down to 7-11. Nonetheless, in the win against the Wildcats, this Alabama squad flashed their potential for the rest of the way out.
“It was huge,” senior Joanna Savva said. “Beating Kentucky was big for us because they have beat many of the teams we have lost to in the past. It shows the type of team we can be.”
Highlighting the difference between the team they can be and the team that they are makes all the difference. On Friday night, the Crimson Tide ditched their normal home attire to wear their power of pink uniforms, and coincidentally the team played much better. Senior leadership stepped up for Alabama in the form of Erin Routliffe and spearheaded the clinching of the doubles point and match for the Crimson Tide.
“Being a senior I realize it brings the pressure of being looked upon for leadership but I don’t see it as a pressure situation,” Routliffe said.
Leaning on a seasoned vet like Routliffe may be one of the crucial steps for this team to compete in the SEC. Just like wine, Routliffe seems to be getting better with age as she racked up the Southeastern Conference Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week for this past week – her first this season. Savva, who is a senior, is not widely called on for leadership but instead brings a certain irreplaceable fire to the team.
“I am loud, that’s really my job on the court," Savva said. "With God as my inspiration and being able to have fun out there I feel at home. Passion is just part of my game.”
The fire and passion Savva brings to Alabama seems to outmatch anyone she takes the court against. Even during her match, any fan can hear her thundering cheers. It is just what she brings to the table. For a team that has struggled to get over the hump, the emotion can be what vaults them and brings them to a high level of play.
Although it is hard to find bright spots in what was a six game losing streak before the win against Kentucky, the team never felt like the competition was too much. After all, four of those losses were decided by just one point. The improvement of this team has not gone unrecognized, this week their ranking leaped up 11 spots up to the 38th spot in the nation.
“It feels great to keep moving up but we can definitely still climb higher in the rankings,” Savva said. “We’ve always been close to the competition so we don’t feel like we are far behind of the other teams.”
As the team inches closer and closer to the top 25 in the national rankings, the focus is still on the task at hand: The Florida Gators. The Gators currently sit at the number one spot in the nation and represent one of the 11 teams in the top 25 from the SEC. For the Crimson Tide, this is just another opportunity to prove themselves, and although they recognize they have gotten a turbulent start in SEC play, Savva and company don’t seem too worried.
“It is not about how you start but how you finish and we would love to be heading into the SEC championships with a full head of steam. It would also be awesome if we could make it to the NCAA’s but for now we must remain focused on Florida and South Carolina,” Savva said.
Alabama will resume play when they travel to Gainesville, Florida, to take on the Florida Gators on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. CT. Following that will be a trip up to South Carolina to play the Gamecocks on Sunday afternoon.