The University of Richmond women’s tennis team heads into a season of socially-distanced and protocol-heavy times with four new additions to the team.
The first years on the team are Carly Cohen, Annika Juergens, Sara Salemyr and Polina Shitikova. These players have a variety of skills to bring to the team.
Cohen, from Pepper Pike, Ohio, is a four-star recruit and was ranked fifth in Ohio and 89th nationally among high school tennis players.
Despite the postponement of the current tennis season, Cohen remains motivated, she said.
“Personally, I definitely want to play as high in the lineup as possible [next season],” Cohen said. She is hopeful that older players with more experience at the collegiate level will guide her and help her achieve a [winning record] in singles and doubles during her college career, she said.
During this preseason, Cohen is focused on remaining positive and hopeful, she said.
“I’m training every day and making sure to use my time wisely,” she said. “I want to be in the best shape and ready to go when the time comes to play.”
Juergens, from Dallas, Texas, is also a four-star recruit. She has a Universal Tennis Rating of nine. The Universal Tennis Rating provides an accurate measure of the players overall performance skill on a scale from 1.0 to 16.50.
Although her first year at UR has been out of the ordinary, Juergens looks forward to improving her game, she said.
“I really want to use this semester where we don’t have any matches to train,” she said. “I want to work on improving different skills that I wouldn’t have been able to work on.”
Salemyr, who is from Stockholm, has played in 17 International Tennis Federation tournaments and has won three gold medals in the SALK(Stockholms Allmänna Lawntennis Klubb) regional championships for juniors. Salemyr originally developed interest in UR after speaking to Mark Wesselink, the head coach of the UR women’s tennis team she said.
“I got in good contact with Mark and felt a good player-coach connection with him,” Salemyr said.
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Salemyr’s transition to UR has been an adjustment, she said. In addition to getting used to a new school system and a new team, she has been introduced to the idea of homework, she said.
“We didn’t have homework in Sweden, but here they love homework,” she said.
Shitikova, who is from Rybinsk, Russia, was ranked 674th globally by the ITF and has 62 career wins in singles.
After dealing with visa troubles, Shitikova finally arrived at UR after 4,878 miles of travel, she said. Shitikova has enjoyed the process of getting acclimated to UR alongside her teammates, she said.
Wesselink said he was impressed with how well the first years were adjusting to the team.
“They’ve assimilated smoothly and have all brought a positive attitude to practice,” Wesselink said. “They’ve fallen in line with the team and have fit in beautifully so far.”
With the postponement of the season, Wesselink had to change the normal structure of training, he said. The increase in COVID-19-related protocols led the team to decrease its training, Wesselink said. A return-to-practice plan had been implemented by Richmond Athletics upon fall athletes return to campus, he said.
“The upside of the new training schedule is that the group has been healthy and they’ve all been working hard,” Wesselink said. “They’re hungry to play.”
The team remains positive and continues to keep its morale high, he said.
Juergens is pleased with the overall energy of the team.
“Everyone on the team has been getting along really well,” Juergens said. “We’ve all been getting excited for practice, which has been great.”
Salemyr noted that she quickly recognized the tennis team’s strong chemistry.
“We are all quite similar in how we play,” she said. “We have a small team, so our chemistry is quite good.”
Wesselink also commented on how well the team was bonding.
“There are no little issues and no big issues with the team,” he said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed!”
Shitikova enjoys the international aspect of the team.
“I love how international that our team is,” Shitikova said. “We all share a lot, despite having different mindsets from different people.”
The four new players bring great promise to the team.
“They’re doing the best with what they got, which is all I ask of them,” Wesselink said.
Contact sports writer Kayla O'Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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