Jan. 19, 2004
For the 2003-04 season, head coach Lise Gregory will lead FSU into another challenging schedule against some of the top teams in the south region and conference play in one of the toughest league’s in the country. Gregory returns a core group of veterans, five of which were newcomers last season and saw a considerable amount of time, and two rookies who are expected to make an immediate impact, especially in the doubles area.
“Our goals include making the NCAA Tournament,” said the eighth year head coach. “It should have been a given last year. It was a big disappointment to all of us that we didn’t. Why we didn’t make it is irrelevant, we didn’t make it. Last year we had a lot of new people but this year we have a ton of experience. If we have a good ACC season, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
Fresh off a year with an inexperienced yet extremely talented group that finished 13-10 overall, the Florida State women’s tennis team is ready to take the court and challenge for a spot among the best in the conference and place in the top 64 teams in the country. Returning players in the top 60 in the country last season are senior leader Anca Dumitrescu, at No. 55 in the preseason polls, and junior Mihaela Moldovan, ranked close behind at No. 60.
“I feel like our depth is going to be our biggest strength,” said Gregory. “There is going to be a lot of competition for those remaining spots and we have a whole bunch of people who can play. It’s going to be interesting to see who’s going to play where in the lineup.”
The schedule, which is always highly competitive, will be no different this season. In the early part of the schedule, the Noles will face four teams with higher rankings – No. 30 Alabama, No. 1 and two-time defending national champion Florida, No. 52 LSU and No. 28 Tulane. In conference, FSU will face five teams who finished last season in the Top 35. The Tribe will take on No. 3 Duke, No. 9 UNC, No. 19 Clemson, No. 31 Georgia Tech and No. 35 Virginia. The Seminoles are sitting at No. 55, the sixth and final team in the ACC with a ranking.
“Well you know the ACC is strong,” said Gregory. “Duke’s going to be as strong as they were last year while UNC may be a little weaker (because of the loss of two All-Americans). After Duke, it’s going to be a handful of teams that are Top 20 material which is going to come down to who wants it more or who is having a better day. With the ACC schedule at the end of our season, the challenge is going to be to keep the team fresh so we are ready to go. If you’re in the top half of the conference standings, you are virtually guaranteed a spot in the tournament.”
Senior Anca Dumitrescu looks to lead Florida State for the third straight season. Dumitrescu is coming off a season in which she was injured during a crucial time but returned to earn an All-ACC team selection. In her final year in the Garnet and Gold, the senior will try to stay healthy and away from the serious back injury she suffered through last season. Dumitrescu took the 2003 Lady Seminole Classic singles A title for the first time in three attempts to cap off her final fall season that saw her win 10 singles matches in four tournaments.
“Our number one player, Anca, was out for a month with a neck problem,” said Gregory. “We lost three or four matches to teams who made the NCAA Tournament without (her). Those were critical matches and you never know , it could happen again. It was very difficult for her.”
Returning to an experienced and deep lineup are senior Christina Denny and junior Mihaela Moldovan. Denny was a solid starter last year in the third position who finished over .500 in singles play. Moldovan, the reigning South Region rookie of the year, will sit at the number two position but is also helpful at the number one spot. The junior saw action last season at the top during Dumitrescu’s injury finishing with a 15-5 record and defeating two higher ranked opponents. Sophomore Alina Mihailescu and junior Amberly Tantee are two talented singles players who round out the top five in the Seminole rotation and are expected to vie for those positions among tough competition from this year’s newcomers.
“I feel singles-wise, we’ve got more depth and are fortunate enough to have one or two players that are interchangeable,” said Gregory. “It’s nice to have two number one’s on your team.”
The doubles area will be the focus for Gregory, as injuries have hampered the squad’s potential for the last two seasons. Florida State returns all but one player who earned wins in doubles. Denny returns after finishing play last spring with a 10-4 record. Denny split time with fellow senior Brooke Cordell for a team best 7-3 record. Junior Daniela Gheorghe, a transfer from Fresno State last season, made an immediate impact finishing 6-2 when partnered with Dumitrescu. Adding to a stellar core are Moldovan, who finished the fall season with only two doubles losses, pairing with Denny and newcomer Roxanne Clarke and Mihailescu, who saw competition in her first doubles match in the fall. Mihailescu coupled with Denny, newcomer Nicole Cercone and junior Natalie Tirapelli in four fall tournaments to comprise a 9-2 record.
“At the beginning of last year, I remember thinking we really had a lot of work to do with doubles,” said Gregory. “That has really helped us for this year because now, everyone that we have on our team is so much better, so much more aware of what to do on the doubles’ court. They have so much more experience.”
Newcomers Clarke and Lindsay Deason will add depth to the doubles and look to be the strong spot for FSU during the season. Last year, the Tribe was 4-3 in matches decided by one point. In two of the three losses, the Garnet and Gold failed to secure the doubles’ point. The fall season saw much improvement in the area with FSU garnering three tournament doubles’ titles.
“How your doubles fair is a really critical part of how your match starts,” said Gregory. “Freshman Roxanne Clarke is going to help our doubles area. I feel like that will be our strong point this year. Deason’s also really good at doubles. She was here last year as a transfer student but had to sit out (under NCAA rules).”