Fri. Feb 22nd, 2019

Women’s tennis: Opportunities abound in challenging conference

By Matt Bradshaw —

Women’s tennis finished 2018 with a 13-13 overall record, posting highlights like the program’s first-ever win over Notre Dame and a victory over No. 36 Virginia. Head coach Mark Beckham returns for his 12th season at the helm with a roster of returners, newcomers and transfers.

“This season I have players with experience, but I do have four brand new players on my team,” Beckham said. “I’ve got two transfers and two freshmen that will be playing significant minutes and hopefully contributing to us winning a lot of matches.”

Senior Sena Suswam and redshirt senior Aleksandra Mally lead the Cardinals as battle-hardened veterans. Both student athletes have dealt with injuries in the past, but return for their final collegiate runs prepared for success.

“Obviously all my players are special to me, but these two girls have meant quite a lot to the program,” Beckham said. “I wish these two have as much success as they possibly can because they’re such great kids and they’ve been through a lot.”

As a fifth-year senior, Mally brings maturity with a high level of talent. The New Yorker posted six singles wins and seven doubles wins in fall play leading up to the spring season.

“To be honest with you, if (Mally) hadn’t had all of the struggles with injuries, I think she would have been one of the best players to ever play here,” Beckham said. “For her to stick it out and still be eager and wanting to do well, I have a lot of respect for her.”

Suswam owns a similar caliber of skill with a history of leadership. As a sophomore, she played singles at the No. 1 position and doubles at No. 2.

In her last season playing for Louisville, Suswam gets back on the court after overcoming shin splints.

“When (Suswam) first burst onto the scene, she did really well,” Beckham said. “But when you have a serious surgery like that, it takes a while. She’s just now getting herself back to it.”

Juniors Raven Neely, Anna Collins and sophomore Maya Smith are the other returners for U of L. They form an important foundation to the team, placed between seniors and newcomers with a history of playing in the most challenging conference in the nation.

“I have upperclassmen that have experienced the ACC, they know nothing but the ACC, so we have a good mix,” Beckham said.

Junior Diana Wong and sophomore Nikolina Jovic are Beckham’s two transfers. The pair, along with freshmen Dina Chaika and Chloe Hamlin, will soon get their first shot at playing in the ACC.

“All of them are going to have their opportunity,” Beckham said. “Any one of them could be the one who stands out.”

The Cards won their home-opening match against Bowling Green this past Sunday. They host Ball State and NKU on Friday, Jan. 25 at the Bass-Rudd Tennis Center.

You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.

Photo courtesy / Louisville Athletics

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