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One of BU’s most consistently successful athletic programs, the women’s tennis Terriers got back on target after a two-year drought April 20, when they captured their first Patriot League title, securing their 14th berth in the NCAA tournament.
The Terriers wrested the Patriot League title from Army, a program that had won nine consecutive conference titles. The Terriers now take on another tough challenger when they face number 12 University of Miami in the first round of the NCAA tournament today in Coral Gables, Fla.
After a disappointing loss to Stony Brook in the 2012 America East tournament, the Terriers were ineligible for conference play last year because of BU’s switch from America East to the Patriot League. Head coach Lesley Sheehan, who from 1994 to 2011 led the program to an impressive 18 straight conference titles, says she hopes that winning the Patriot League title is the beginning of a new chapter.
“The team came out strong in the Patriot League tournament with two early wins against Army, and I think the adrenaline carried them through,” Sheehan says. “It was a great weekend; we’ve made history by winning a Patriot League title, and we’re hoping that we can continue to go on a another streak like we did in America East. It’s a great feeling for the athletes, who have worked really hard this year and deserved to win.”
Cocaptain Leonie-Charlotte Athanasiadis (CAS’14) says she’s excited about having one final shot at an NCAA tournament title. “It’s great to finish my career with a conference title,” she says, “and I want to make sure that the younger players make the most of this amazing experience.”
Athanasiadis’ doubles partner, Johanna Hyoty (SMG’16), is making her first NCAA tournament appearance today. The native of Finland had an outstanding season, going undefeated in singles play and becoming the first Terrier to be named conference Player of the Year since 2010. She was also recognized as Patriot League Tournament MVP after defeating Army’s top singles player in straight sets on April 20.
Sheehan notes that although Hyoty was ineligible to participate in collegiate competition last season because of transfer rules, “she practiced every day like she was going to play in every match. That was very difficult for her, but she’s been a great team player and very coachable, and was incredibly deserving of those awards.”
As the Terriers’ top singles player, Hyoty will likely open tournament play today against Miami’s Stephanie Wagner, one of the top players in the nation. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how we fare against strong competition,” says Hyoty. “We’ve worked hard for this opportunity all season, and we’re ready for the challenge.”
It’s been three weeks since the Terriers faced Army in the Patriot League finals, an unusually long layoff before the NCAA tournament, but Sheehan believes the extra time will work to the team’s advantage. “It’s allowed us to get back on the court and work on some things we need to do well,” she says. “We have players who are capable of winning matches against Miami if they play well, and I’m confident that they will give it their all.”
The women’s tennis Terriers will face number 12 University of Miami in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 2 p.m. today in Coral Gables, Fla.