The Tennessee women’s tennis team began their spring season on Monday, sweeping a doubleheader against North Alabama.
The Lady Vols swept the first match of the day, including wins from three Tennessee freshman.
“Kylie Duckworth is a freshman who was here with us in the fall,” head coach Alison Ojeda said. “For her to come out today and not only work hard to set things up, but also execute when she needed to was important. Rebeka (Mertena) and Maia (Haumuller) just got here a week and a half ago.
“To have two freshman come in today, compete, get four matches under their belt, play through nerves, and to embrace it the way they just did is phenomenal.”
The Lady Vols’ success continued into the afternoon, where they once again swept the Lions across both doubles and singles. Tennessee’s performance was so dominant that they only dropped one set in both of their 7-0 victories.
“Self-talk and how we were communicating with our teammates was big,” Ojeda said. “I feel like your best teams year in, year out run down balls and are willing to put another ball on the tennis court and take care of business. Those are the things we focused on and I feel like we did a good job of it.”
The Lady Vols lone senior, Sadie Hammond, started her spring season strong by defeating North Alabama’s Claudia Arroyo 6-0, 6-1. The Belgrade, Maine native is looking to improve on a senior campaign that saw her post a 7-2 record this fall.
“I would definitely like to make the NCAA Tournament,” Hammond said. “I want to be All-American in both singles and doubles. As a team we are aiming for a top 25 birth and to do really well in SEC. We’ve worked extremely hard at that and in the last few years we just keep getting better.”
Hammond, along with Tennessee sophomore Kaitlin Staines, picked up two doubles wins for Tennessee on the day. The No. 33 ranked pair defeated North Alabama’s Claudio Arroyo and Megan Humphries in their first match before defeating Arroyo and Sydney Fletch 6-4.
“I think the last week of training, and the previous match kind of hit us a little bit,” Hammond said. “It’s easy to think ahead and be like ‘we should win this’, but we just stayed in the moment. I think Staines and I both do better when the pressure is on, so I think being at 5-4 we were able to recognize ‘this is our chance’ and move forward.”
Up next for the Lady Vols are two road trips. They go to Ann Arbor to face Michigan next week and to Florida State the following weekend.
“Going into Michigan everything needs to be the same in terms of expectations,” Ojeda said. “The things that we can control…we have to keep focusing on them. Then going into Florida State we’ll have to be focusing on execution.”
Tennessee will return to the Goodfriend Tennis Center Feb. 10 against Old Dominion.