Emory’s women’s tennis team is months away from taking the court for the season; however, that did not stop the girls from being on top of their game at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Fall South Regional Championships this past Friday.
Matches were played at the Student Activity and Academic Center (SAAC), Woodruff P.E. Center (WoodPEC) and Agnes Scott College (Ga.).
“This tournament is always tough, because you know that each round you win just gets you closer to having to play your teammates,” junior Bridget Harding said. “We’re all very competitive, but at the end of the day, we have the same goal in mind, which is to be playing our best at nationals in the spring.”
Nine girls represented Emory in the tournament, with five Eagles claiming the top five seeds of the draw. Four Emory doubles pairs competed in the main doubles draw, two of them claiming the top overall seeds.
“It was a great tournament for us. We really saw some outstanding play by four top players on our team,” Head Coach Amy Bryant said. “Their level of competitiveness was just extraordinary, and it really showed just how hard they were all willing to work.”
The top singles seeds, seniors Michelle Satterfield (No. 2), Katarina Su (No. 3) and Paula Castro (No. 5), sophomore Daniela Lopez (No. 4) and Harding (No. 1), all came out on top Friday, advancing to round 16. They were joined by unseeded freshmen Emma Perelman and Elaine Vernoff. Harding and Su were also the No. 1 seed in the doubles draw, followed by Satterfield and Lopez, who all made it to the quarterfinals.
“Daniela [Lopez] and Michelle [Satterfield] always impress me with the way that they fight out on the court,” Harding said. “They’re obviously great players, but even more than that, they’re great competitors, and it’s because of people like them that our program has been so successful.”
Saturday saw four of the five top single seeds advance to Sunday’s semifinals. Harding beat Sewanee: The University of the South’s (Tenn.) freshmen Ellie Czura and Darby Duval in the quarterfinals prior to competing against Su in the semifinals, where she won 6-4, 6-1. Harding was then scheduled to see Satterfield in the finals following Satterfield’s 7-5, 6-4 takedown against Lopez. Overall, all four eagles progressed to the finals, in which Harding and Su were scheduled to match-up against Satterfield and Lopez in doubles.
“Competing against each other is never fun. Katarina [Su] and I had to play each other just hours before teaming up for the doubles final, but it didn’t phase us at all,” Harding said. “Sure, we were competitors for that match, but above all we are teammates and friends so having to play each other didn’t change our dynamic or the way we approached the match.”
As finals commenced later Sunday, the tournament saw a heated battle between the two duos; a third-set tiebreak ultimately ended the game. Harding and Su came out on top, securing their second straight ITA Fall South Regional Championship doubles title. Harding’s streak did not end there: she took home the championship singles title with her 6-4, 6-3 triumph against Satterfield. Harding’s achievement marked the 15th consecutive season an Emory athlete won the ITA Fall South Regional Championships singles champion title.
Both Su and Harding, who were named the University Athletic Association (UAA) Athletes of the Week Monday, will advance to the ITA Small College National Tournament Oct. 13 and 14 in Surprise, Ariz. From there, women’s tennis will continue to train for their upcoming spring season in which, based on this past weekend’s performance, they will be competitive.
“The tournaments we are playing now all help to give us more experience and a different perspective on how we can improve our game later in the season,” Su said. “This is my last season, so I’m really going to try to make it the best that I can. Our team is just really great this year so I’m excited to see how we play.”