No. 1 Gators Chomp Away at  No. 19 Tennessee

Sadie Hammond and Head Coach Alison Ojeda during her singles match against Indiana at Goodfriend Tennis Center on Feb. 12, 2017.

After launching off to a 2-0 start, the Tennessee women’s tennis team is primed to take on in-state opponents Memphis and ETSU on Saturday for its first doubleheader of the year.

As the Lady Vols kick off their home-opener, fans will get their first glimpse of what to expect this season. 

The Lady Vols are led by junior standout Sadie Hammond, who feels more than ready to step up as the team’s go-to player.

“It’s a privilege to be in the position I am,” Hammond said. “I feel like I’m trying to improve, mentally, the way I approach matches and the way I compete. I think, compared to last season, I feel more confident in myself and the team.” 

The Lady Vols attempt to live by the “one match at a time” philosophy, but Hammond didn’t shy away from expressing her aspirations for the season. 

“One of my end goals is to, as a team, move out in the SEC tournament as well as the NCAA tournament,” Hammond said. “Individually, I would like to make the NCAA singles tournament and doubles as well.” 

Hammond is not the only one with high expectations for the Lady Vols. Head coach Alison Ojeda knows that this team has a lot of potential but is adamant on first focusing on Memphis and ETSU.

“This weekend’s focus is 100 percent on us focusing for a longer period of time,” Ojeda said. “We’ve got Memphis and ETSU, and both are going to come out here and fight their tails off, and they’ve got some great players on the team. They’re capable of doing some damage.” 

The Memphis Tigers are also 2-0 and are highlighted by Germany native and senior transfer from Arizona Hanna Sohn. ETSU, meanwhile, will challenge the Lady Vols with their depth, as they feature five returning players, four of whom are seniors. 

As the Lady Vols have prepared for Saturday’s action, Ojeda has enjoyed watching her group come together as a team.

“I’ve been part of teams in the past where you have some really good talent, but no one wants to hang out,” Ojeda said. “I want a team that enjoys being around each other. One thing I’m noticing this year is that they legitimately want to be around each other. We’ve got new players that have come in and just embraced each other. 

“This team, more than anything from start to finish, what I saw in our opening match this season was a team effort. Literally, start to finish. One thing that’s going to separate this team from teams in the past is legit being together.”

The Lady Vols will look to build off of that team unity during Saturday’s dual action play. Tennessee will face Memphis at 11:00 a.m. followed by ETSU at 2:00 p.m. Both matches will be played at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.

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