The Emory University women’s tennis team competed in the ITA Division III Women’s South Regional Championship, with senior Stephanie Shulman coming out on top and winning the singles title.

The ITA Regionals followed a typical tournament structure: both double and singles brackets, each with 64 players. Shulman competed in the singles bracket and started off with a bye. She went on to defeat Sewanee: The University of the South’s (Tenn.) Nicole Nowak (6-1, 6-1), Rhodes College’s (Tenn.) Agda Laasko (6-3, 6-1) and Emory’s Eliza McPherron (6-2, 6-2) and Ana Cristina Perez (walkover) to reach the finals. 

Shulman then defeated Sewanee’s Alice Hall (6-1, 6-1) to win the singles crown.

“[Winning] was really cool,” Shulman said. “It’s definitely one of our tougher tournaments. I think having this be my last year here, it was really special to win it this year.”

Though the team’s official season begins in the spring, they are participating in fall tournaments in preparation. Shulman, who captains the women’s tennis team, said that she’s excited to see how much the team will improve before the spring.

“I think everyone on this team this year really cares about being here and it’s a supportive group of girls.” Shulman said. “It’s just been a really great environment and team culture the last two months we’ve been here this semester.”

The team returns to the courts after a successful 2021-22 spring season in which they were the runner-ups at the University Athletic Association Women’s Tennis Championship and lost in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championship. However, things will look a bit different this year from the coaching side. Former head coach Amy Bryant (96C) retired after a decorated 23-season coaching career, passing the torch to Bridget Harding (18C, 20PH).

Shulman said she hasn’t noticed a great difference in Bryant and Harding’s coaching styles or in the overall team atmosphere.

I wouldn’t say that it’s affected our team in any drastic ways,” Shulman said. “Coach Harding has been with the program ever since I got here freshman year. I’ve known her all my four years and she’s always been very involved.”

Shulman also attributed her on-court success to the advice both Bryant and Harding have given during her collegiate athletic career.

“[Bryant] and [Harding] have always talked to us about, you just have to trust the process and that whatever it is that you’re working towards, whether it’s tennis, school, life-related, there’s always gonna be little hiccups in the way but you shouldn’t let that derail your goals,” Shulman said.

Shulman’s multifaceted, aggressive style has additionally garnered admiration from her peers, other players and the coaching staff.

“It’s a point of pride for her teammates,” Harding said. “It’s motivating for them to see that [winning] is possible and to see that we have players that are consistently finding themselves in that position.”

Harding said that she believes Shulman’s approach to the game defines her success.

“She’s very competitive,” Harding said. “She really gets in the zone out there. And you know, she’s been continuing to develop that competitive identity. From freshman year to now, she’s really come into her own as a competitor, and I think that confidence is just growing and she’s continuing to find herself in these bigger tournaments.”

Shulman’s All-American performance at the South Regionals qualified her for the ITA Cup, where Shulman defeated Grinnell College’s (Iowa) Sabrina Tang (6-3, 7-5) in the first round before losing to the top-seeded University of Chicago’s (Ill.) Sylwia Mikos (3-6, 6-2, 3-6) in the quarterfinals. 

Nevertheless, Harding and Shulman are looking forward to the year ahead. Though Harding noted that the sizable number of “new players” on the team – five of their 11 players are freshmen – may face a learning curve, she is poised to help build team culture around competitiveness and by reiterating the message of “trusting the process.”

“Our main focus right now is building our culture and building our competitive identity, and I think that’s starting to come through on the court,” Harding said. “The wins and losses are coming, but again, I think, as a whole, the competition and the performance of our team has been very strong.”

Senior Stephanie Shulman poses with her championship trophy after winning the ITA Division III Women’s South Regional Championship. (Courtesy of Stephanie Shulman)