Ella Floyd, Contributing Writer
VCU Women’s Tennis has begun its spring season after claiming its third consecutive Atlantic 10 title last May. Armed with key players such as graduate students Paola Exposito Diaz-Delgado and Nina Sorkin, the Rams enter the season optimistic with a current overall record of 1-1.
VCU began the season with Virginia Tech transfer Sorkin and freshman Yelizaveta Karlova in a powerful doubles team, who earned a 6-4 victory in their opening match against Furman University. This was Karlova’s first match as a freshman with VCU.
“I thought Liza [Karlova] and I worked well together in our doubles match to get the victory against some tough opponents,” Sorkin stated. “I was really proud and impressed with Liza [Karlova] on how well she competed for her first match as a freshman. She is such a great player and I have learned so much from watching her play the last few months.”
Last season, Delgado helped lead VCU to its success at the Atlantic 10 championship. Delgado is the captain of the team and is currently ranked no. 61 in the ITA, according to VCU Athletics. The ITA national rankings are designed to rank all collegiate tennis players through all divisions by a committee. Segnini believes that Delgado serves as a “leader” to the team.
“She is a tremendous player and such a great leader for our team, leading by example. She works hard everyday, fights in all her matches and supports her teammates,” Segnini stated.
Recently, Delgado was named women’s tennis performer of the week for matches played before Jan. 23, by the Atlantic 10. Delgado hopes her success and her recent ITA ranking will benefit the prestige of VCU Tennis.
“I just think that this could help newcomer athletes to believe that the VCU tennis program has all the tools to make you a competitive player on a national level,” Delgado stated. “Coaches, teammates, advisors, trainers and staff from administration are always on top of everything to help you with whatever you need.”
With over half the team being new players, Coach Vivian Segnini thinks the key to repeated success will be the players simply getting back into the game.
“We just started practicing and competing after a while and we just need to play more matches to get back in the rhythm,” Segnini stated. “Our team has great players and they are working hard every day. If we continue working hard every day and fighting together in our matches, it will be a successful season.”
Sorkin, however, stated that the secret may lie in new confidence and energy found in the team during their matches.
“Something we can improve on going into this weekend for our next matches, is to continue our energy after doubles going into singles. Once we get the lead, we need to continue to play with confidence and close out the matches,” Sorkin stated. “Each match we play this season, we will get a little more confident in ourselves and I can see us having great success.”
The team will also have to train for the upcoming season while dealing with changing regulations, with the current COVID-19 pandemic and the Omicron variant
“We are happy that we can play the season and we are being responsible and doing the things we can control to avoid covid cases in our team,” Segnini stated. “The whole team is vaccinated, which is a better situation than last year — We are just being careful because staying healthy is a priority right now.”
Diaz-Delgado, junior Gabriela Davidescu and senior Shivani Manjanna are the only remaining players from last season’s championship team, according to VCU athletics. Diaz-Delgado, ranked no. 61 in the ITA, would be key in leading VCU to the Atlantic-10 Championship.
VCU Women’s Tennis will play next on Jan. 27 against Elon University in Richmond, Virginia at the Thalhimer Tennis Center.
Sports Editor Arrick Wilson contributed to this report.