No. 7 Commodores are Unsatisfied
Steve Kirkland, Originally appeared in the Flagship
The Vanderbilt women's tennis team achieved many milestones
during the 2001-02 season. It set a school record for wins,
earned their highest ranking ever, and reached the finals
of the National Indoor Championships for the first time.
Yet, when its season came to an end on a May afternoon in
Northern California, there was a sense of disappointment.
After the fourth seeded Commodores fell in the round of 16
of the NCAA Championships, we must remember that upsets are
part of college athletics. Last year, the Commodores pulled
off two upsets in these same championships during their run
to the national finals. This year they were the favorite,
but came away with a result that will motivate them for next
"It says a lot about the state of your program when you finish
No. 7 in the nation and it is a disappointment," said Vanderbilt
head coach Geoff Macdonald. "It wasn't that long ago that
we would have been ecstatic to be in the top ten at season's
Although it is easy to focus on the way a season ended, Commodore
fans should focus on the highlights of one of the most successful
years in the program's history.
The 'Dores posted a 27-5 record, the most dual match wins
of any Vanderbilt tennis team, men's or women's. Twenty-one
of those wins came against ranked opponents.
In February, the Commodores beat top 20 ranked teams on three
consecutive days to reach the finals of the ITA National Indoor
Championships. The following week, the team's performance
at the elite tournament was rewarded with a No. 2 national
ranking, their highest ever.
The Commodores would go on to post a 9-2 record in the Southeastern
Conference, one of college tennis' toughest leagues. Wins
over top ten foes Duke, Texas and Tennessee highlighted the
regular season. The only two setbacks were 4-3 losses to No.1
Georgia and eventual SEC Champion and NCAA finalist.
Vanderbilt would reach the semifinals of the SEC Tournament
for the third consecutive season, before falling to the Gators
for a second time by a 4-3 score.
"I admire how hard this team fought to be ranked No.1 in
the country," added Macdonald. "We had a few matches where
we were a few points away from wins that would have vaulted
us to that place. We were incredibly close achieving our goal
of being the best team in the nation."
Leading that charge was junior Sarah Riske. The McMurray,
Pa. native played at No. 1 singles and No.1 doubles for the
Commodores. Her 23-9 singles record earned her a national
ranking of No.14 in the final poll and All-American status
for the first time in her career.
She teamed with Aleke Tsoubanos again this season in doubles
and the duo continued to succeed. Now the winningest doubles
team in Vanderbilt history, they won 25 doubles matches this
spring and earned All-American status, after advancing to
the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships. Riske
and Tsoubanos became the third and fourth Vanderbilt players
to earn All-American status.
However, All-America wasn't the only honors Commodores would
earn in 2002. When the All-SEC honors were handed out, Vanderbilt
led the conference by placing seven players on the all-conference
Tsoubanos earned first team honors for her play at No. 5
singles while freshman Audra Falk earned honors at No. 6 singles.
The doubles team of senior Jenny Miller and sophomore Kelly
Schmandt were named to the first team for their undefeated
conference play at No. 3 doubles.
Riske and Miller were voted to the second team for their
singles play as was the team of senior Kate Burson and freshman
Annie Menees for their doubles play. It was the most conference
accolades for a Commodore team and the most by any conference
institution in six years.
"Overall I think we had a good season," stated Riske. "We
beat a lot of quality opponents and suffered only a few close
losses to some of the top teams in the country. We battled
through some adversity, especially when we suffered some injuries
at some crucial times. We rallied together and we are a close
team. We will improve next year and we should be right with
the top teams again."
The Commodores return six players next year and will look
to take the next step in their climb to the top ranks of collegiate
tennis. They will once again have the talent to be one of
the nation's elite teams next year, something that has become
the norm at Vanderbilt.
With this season as motivation, don't be surprised to see
great things from the Commodores in 2003.