2004-05 Women's Tennis Preview

After winning five of its final six matches last season and tying for third place at the America East Conference Championships, the Binghamton women's tennis team heads into the 2004-05 year with a wealth of talented newcomers who will significantly bolster the roster. Add that to three of last season's top four players returning to the lineup and the Bearcats are ready to take a big step forward.

"We are way ahead of where we were last year," head coach Mike Stevens said. "We have worked hard as a team and have improved a lot. We should be much better, especially in the doubles matches."

Sophomore Zeynep Altinay, last year's number one singles player, is the top returnee. In her first collegiate season, she went 17-7 in singles actions and earned all-conference honors. She was also 12-9 in doubles matches.

"Zenyp is coming off a great freshman year," Stevens said. "She has worked hard over the summer and is hitting all of her shots cleanly. This year, our goal is to make her serve more of a weapon and to step up and be a team leader. Her mental toughness is very strong and she is one of the top players in the conference."

Sophomore Lya Kushnirovich finished the 2003-04 campaign as the No. 2 singles player and was part of the top doubles team. Her 13-10 singles record included a 10-5 mark in dual matches. She also went 13-11 is doubles action, including a 10-6 mark in dual matches. Like Altinay, she also earned all-conference honors.

"Lya had a good season at first doubles and second singles," Stevens said. "She is a valuable part of our lineup this season."

Also returning this season is sophomore Vera Popova, who was the No. 4 singles player last season. She ended the 2003-04 season on a good note, winning three of her last five matches.

"Vera gained a lot of experience last season at the number four singles spot," Stevens said. "We are looking forward to having her back in the lineup."

This year's top newcomer is sophomore Jelena Koprivica, who played at Boise State last season. Originally from Serbia, she was ranked in her native country and has extensive international experience.

"Jelena is a great addition to our team," Stevens said. "She will add a lot more depth to the top of our lineup. She hits the ball very hard and is consistent with her shots. Jelena has a good attitude and knows how to win."

Incoming freshman
Alyssa Freeman arrives from Lawrence High School in Atlantic Beach, N.Y. She has been ranked as high as No. 21 in the USTA's Eastern Section and No. 320 nationally. She has also posted wins over the players ranked No. 289 and 297 nationally.

"Alyssa is a great recruit for our program," Stevens said. "She will have an immediate impact on the strength of our team. Alyssa is a very intense competitor with an aggressive baseline game."

Another incoming freshman who should figure prominently into the starting lineup is Jenn Naegeli, who comes from Mahopac High School in Putnam Valley, N.Y. . She is currently ranked in the top 40 in the USTA's Eastern Section.

"Jenn will help add to the quality and competitive strength of our program," Stevens said. "She is a tremendous fighter on the court. Jenn has very good groundstrokes as well as at the net."

A trio of freshman; Naomi Eichenbaum, Gayathri Balasunder and Lilian Santos round out this season's roster.

After completing its fall schedule, which includes five matches, the Bearcats will have a challenging non-conference schedule in order to prepare for the America East matches and championship. Binghamton has added a match with Air Force to go along with duals with Seton Hall, Army, St. Bonaventure, UMass and UConn among others.

The America East Championships will be held April 29-May 1 at the Connecticut Tennis Center.


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