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Women’s tennis travels to Toledo for MAC tournament

Team chemistry has been the main focus for the RedHawks this season
Team chemistry has been the main focus for the RedHawks this season

The Miami University RedHawks women’s tennis team will travel to Toledo this weekend for the 2024 Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament. 

The RedHawks finished the 2024 season at 12-11 (6-4 in MAC play) to earn second place in the East division and the third seed for the tournament. They will face the No. 2 Western Michigan University Broncos in the first round on April 26. 

When Miami concluded the 2023 season at 11-14 and a first-round exit in the MAC tournament, the team made its goal to reinvigorate its competitive nature. For head coach Ricardo Rosas, the team was competitive last year en route to winning the regular season, but it could have gone a step further.

“We won the regular season, we didn’t [win] the tournament,” Rosas said. “Even though they were very competitive, some other teams just had a little bit more in it in those key moments. I don’t want to say that because they were trying hard, but they were just a little bit better and a little bit tougher.”

As independent as a sport like tennis is, the RedHawks manage to keep excellent team chemistry and sportsmanship. The team put in 116 hours of community service, including participating in Buddy Up Tennis, and the captains host get-togethers. On the court, the players will shout at each other and call for a team-wide “Go ‘Hawks” to keep the energy up. 

For junior captain Nishitha Saravanan, this season exemplified the team’s togetherness more than in prior years. 

“I’d say that this season more than previous seasons, we’ve kind of bonded a lot more,” Saravanan said. “Instead of playing for separate reasons, we’ve all been playing a lot more for each other and working as a team and a family.”

Of the eight players on the roster, six come from outside the United States. Some are from neighboring countries, while others travel from across the world. Despite everyone having different backgrounds, the players know that they have each others’ backs. 

Sara Zalukar, a junior captain from Croatia, finds that everyone being an international player from different countries actually brings the team closer together.

“For me personally because I’m international, I think it makes it easier because we all have our differences,” Zalukar said. “We share and laugh at those things and compare [them] to each other. It’s always interesting to hear different stories.”

The RedHawks will play against the Broncos, and if they win, they play the winner of a match between the No. 1 University of Toledo Rockets and the No. 4 Eastern Michigan University Eagles. 

Miami previously played the Eagles in March, where it won 4-3. The RedHawks lost two of three doubles matches and won four of six singles matches to claim the victory. 

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The RedHawks faced the Rockets twice, once in Toledo and once in Oxford, both ending in a loss (5-2 at Toledo, 4-3 in Oxford).

The Broncos welcomed Miami in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the last match of the regular season, where the RedHawks lost 4-3. They lost two of three doubles matches and won three of six singles matches. 

With Miami replaying its most recent matchup in the first round, the team had some changes to make to the lineup and the game plan. For Rosas, the doubles point ultimately decided the score. 

“We gotta come out a little bit better in the doubles,” Rosas said. “When you win the doubles, you’re only looking for three single matches. If we would have won [those] doubles, that would’ve been the match.”

Zalukar reiterated Rosas’ point, saying that the team adjusted the roster and gameplan going into the tournament.

“We can win that,” Zalukar said. “We lost that, and then it was 4-3 for them. We changed our doubles lineup, and hopefully it will work better.”

To prepare for the tournament, Rosas has been reminding players to take things one point at a time. Tennis players may dwell on missed opportunities from the last game or match, which affects their play in the moment.

“The key for us is … to be a little more free out there,” Rosas said. “Sometimes we tend to miss one shot, and we go into the dark a little bit, and I saw we don’t have to. It’s part of it. When we doubt ourselves, we allow the opponent to make the plays, and that’s something that cost us last weekend.”

Miami last won the MAC tournament in 2019, winning in the final round against the University of Akron Zips 4-3. Since then, the team has made the tournament in 2022 and 2023, losing both times to Toledo.  

Saravanan and Zalukar played in both tournaments, and they note that the tournament varies greatly from regular season play.

“The environment in the tournament is a lot different than every regular match,” Saravanan said. “Everybody is on hyperdrive and screaming on every single point. There’s not a moment of calmness, and I personally like that environment.”

Going into Friday afternoon, the mindset of the team is about remembering the hard work they’ve put in up to this point. 

“We’ve been working for the whole year for [this] moment,” Zalukar said. “I just hope everything goes well and everybody performs good.”