The Southern Miss women’s tennis team was off to its best start in program history. It was a start that included an undefeated record at home and in Conference USA play. Of course, that was until the season came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To start (with) an 11-1 record was very exciting and just a tremendous start to our season,” Second-year head coach Stephen Schram said. “With our amazing team chemistry and tenacious team culture where we fight every day in practices and matches, I have no doubt that the team will be even more excited next season. (The team) felt gutted and upset that the season was cut short because we were on such a good roll, especially after defeating very good teams along the way.”
The abrupt ending has only added more fuel to the fire for a team that returns its entire starting lineup next season. All eight Golden Eagles recorded a win, while seven finished with a winning mark in singles play. Southern Miss’ 11-1 start was highlighted by Ebru Zeynep Yazgan’s 10-0 start that included wins on court two, three, four, and five.
“As far as Ebru Yazgan is concerned, what a remarkable and inspiring story,” Schram said. “She was able to fend off a nagging shoulder injury all season. I couldn’t be more proud of her and her efforts this entire season as she was able to go undefeated primarily at the No. 3 and No. 4 singles positions. In fact, Ebru was not physically able to serve regularly with an overhead motion (which is) similar to throwing a baseball and football, so she adapted and served every singles and doubles match underhanded. That forced her to play with more fight and intensity because she was already at a great disadvantage. I couldn’t be more proud of her and her efforts all season.”
Junior Katia de la Garza also jumped to an impressive 9-1 start that saw the Nuevo Leon, Mexico native split time between courts one and two.
However, With an injury rattled lineup, veterans Monique Burton and Tanit Lopez added a spark at the bottom of the lineup that was much needed. The two combined to finish 12-1 in singles play and 12-2 in doubles play. The Golden Eagles got another boost from its freshmen class of Sarah Medik, Warisara Lee and Jeanne Gearity. Medik ended her freshman campaign with a 7-1 record, while Lee went 5-3. Gearity’s 3-0 record solidified her as one of two Golden Eagles to finish without a loss.
The most impressive part about the Golden Eagles’ record-setting start was their 27-3 record in doubles play. It took 10 matches for them to drop their first doubles point, which turned out to be the only time the Golden Eagles dropped the doubles point all season. De la Garza and Lee paced Southern Miss’ doubles teams with a 9-1 record on court two. Medik and Burton took over as the top pairing and finished 5-1.
Although the remainder of the season was canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Southern Miss’ 2020 start will go down as the best in program history. And it’s evident that next season will have a similar tale.
“In my mind, the strongest part of the 2020 team was by far the team culture and chemistry,” Schram said. “All eight players who all come from different parts of the globe came together and just defied odds. They pushed each every day in practices and matches and really focused on getting better every day. In my 15 years of collegiate coaching, this was definitely one of the most rewarding seasons despite it being cut short. The present and future of Southern Miss women’s tennis is very bright, and we will pick up where we left off.”
Photo by Southern Miss Athletics.