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Last year, the Harvard women's tennis team, led by freshman star Erika deLone, stormed through its spring schedule and recaptured the Ivy League crown as part of a surprisingly successful season (12-8 overall, 6-0 Ivy).
DeLone may have skipped town to compete in the professional ranks, but the core of the team is back. In addition to deLone, the Crimson only lost one varsity singles player, to graduation (Kim Cooper).
Can the Crimson repeat last year's achievements without last year's star? "It's hard to tell so early," Coach Gordon Graham said, "but I think we'll be stronger, even though we've lost a great number one [in deLone]."
Senior Erika Elmuts and junior Co-Captains Melissa McNabb and Eliza Parker will lead a talented, veteran squad back into the fray this year.
McNabb is steadily improving from injuries which nagged her early last season and Parker returns with the dramatic and gutsy style she unveiled last spring. Elmuts will join McNabb and Parker at the top of the heap, finally getting her chance to play number one.
In addition, promising sophomores Agata Passent and Kendra Harris will return to the squad with a year of varsity singles experience under their belts. Sophomore Cisca Mok, who was sidelined all last year with injuries, will miss at least the fall portion of the schedule for rehabilitation after undergoing wrist surgery over the summer.
In the frosh crop, Kate Roiter from Weston, Mass. and Kelly Granat from Roslyn, N.Y. look especially promising. Roiter and Granat were ranked 26th and 68th nationally in the girls 16-year-old division.
Roiter is the only frosh Graham has gotten a chance to watch closely, and he's liked what he's seen.
"A lot of kids will stay in the backcourt, but she also charges the net and plays aggressively," Graham said. "She's a very strong athlete."
While the fall schedule will have little bearing on the team's Ivy campaign, it will greatly affect individual player's Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Association (ITCA) ranking, used to select players for the NCAA tournament in May.
For the individual competition, Elmuts figures to be Harvard's best bet for an NCAA bid.
As for the team, Harvard figures to be the favorite to repeat in the Ivy League, which Graham says is "pretty much the same."
The East Region, however, might look different than it has in years past. Traditionally dominant William and Mary will be a little less overpowering, after losing several key players to graduation. Graham said Syracuse could open a few eyes.
If all the stars are aligned correctly, Harvard may just receive a berth in the NCAA team competition. Start calling those astrologists.
Coach: Gordon Graham
Captain: M. McNabb, E. Parker
1991 Overall Record: 12-8
1991 Ivy Record: 6-0
1991 Ivy Finish: 1st
WOMEN'S TENNIS: '92 SCHEDULE 9/25 Harvard Invitational TBA 9/29 Boston University 2 p.m. 10/3 ITCA Regional (at Yale) TBA 10/17 ITCA Reg. Champs. (Site TBA) TBA 11/5 ITCA Individuals (at Penn) TBA
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