2011 Houston Tennis Season Preview
Jan. 18, 2011
HOUSTON - The University of Houston tennis team will have a new look when it opens the 2011 season Friday at No. 3 Baylor, with four newcomers added to the mix. The Cougars hope to build on a successful fall season that saw four individual titles in four tournaments played.
"It's a completely different group and chemistry than last year's team," said head coach John Severance. "I think we have great chemistry, but far more talent and potential with this team. We're not battle tested yet, which is our only fault as of right now. We had a good fall season, and I think we're going to have some fun at Baylor."
Seniors Joanna Kacprzyk and Elena Kazakova and sophomores Bryony Hunter and Maja Kazimieruk return for the Cougars after combining for a 41-31 record in singles action last spring. Freshmen Celia Fraser, Jo Garvey and Dionne Sanders join junior transfer Giorgia Pozzan as newcomers, and look to play a significant role for the Cougars this season.
"I think instead of just having one power game with Bryony, we now have three people that play with some pop," said Severance. "Giorgia is probably our craftiest player. Singles-wise, if you saw a match last year and then this year, it's night and day.
"I typically try to not get too excited about the fall because it's always a work in progress, but we did have results, which I always like," Severance said. "Bryony and Giorgia played how I expected, and the freshmen got matches under their belt, which is what they needed."
Hunter led the Cougars as a freshman last season with a 13-6 record en route to Third Team All-C-USA honors. The Harlow, U.K., native posted a 5-3 singles mark this fall while battling injuries.
"Bryony is going to do well as long as she stays healthy," Severance said. "I expect her to compete like she always does, no matter where she is in the lineup, which I would envision is in the top three."
Kacprzyk registered the second-most wins on the squad last year with an 11-6 record, and enjoyed a solid fall season, highlighted by capturing the doubles title at the Cougar Fall Draw with Pozzan.
"Joanna is one of our seniors and I would hope she has her best season she's ever had," said Severance. "I think for the first time she'll be playing down in the four through six positions, but that's just an indication of how strong the team is. She's played in the top three the last couple of years, so it should be a good fit for her."
Kazimieruk also reached the double-digit wins mark as a freshman last season, and enjoyed a solid fall campaign with a 9-3 mark in singles play. The Poznan, Poland, product reeled off three wins against Conference USA opponents to claim the singles title at the Rice Invitational.
"Maya continues to get better and I think she's going to be very solid in the bottom half of our lineup," explained Severance. "I expect her to rack up a ton of wins. Even against the higher-ranked teams we're playing, I think it's a good spot for her."
Kazakova posted seven wins in 2010 in her first year as a Cougar after transferring from the University of Minnesota.
"Elena is another senior and she has the talent to contribute to our success," said Severance. "It's her last season and I would rather her go out on a very, very high note."
Pozzan made a huge impact in her first semester as a Cougar, posting a 10-3 singles record and a 10-2 doubles mark for a combined record of 20-5. Pozzan teamed up with Hunter to claim the doubles title in the first event of the fall at the Islander Open. Both Pozzan and Hunter also advanced to the singles finals to face each other before play was cancelled due to inclement weather.
"Giorgia comes in with the experience and is clearly a great player," Severance said. "She's a leader and is a go-getter that does a lot of things for the team by herself. Tennis-wise, I could put her in any doubles position with anyone, and she'd probably do well."
Fraser, Garvey and Sanders all hail from England and combined for seven wins in the fall. Sanders picked up her first two collegiate victories at the Cougar Fall Draw, while Garvey earned her second and third wins at home to close out the fall season. Fraser didn't see action until the home finale, posting a 2-2 record in singles play.
"Celia has a big game and a lot of potential," said Severance. "Rice will be her first match of the spring, and she could possibly play her first match against a nationally-ranked team at number one singles. I definitely expect her to play in the top three.
"Dionne is one of the players that the light finally came on for," explained Severance. "She got the monkey off of her back with her first win, and I think it was our first practice after our fall tournament when her play was night and day difference. I'm going to give her a big challenge, playing her in the top three positions in the first four matches. I think she has the talent and potential to play there."
"I expect Jo to compete and contribute in doubles," said Severance. "Jo has a good chance to start in singles in the first four matches and make the most of it. She has one of the best serves on the team, and if she can just feed off of that, she will do well. Her practices got better after our last fall tournament, so we'll see what she's got."
The Cougars play their first three matches on the road, beginning Friday at 3:30 p.m. at No. 3 Baylor, before returning home against St. Edward's on Feb. 4 for the beginning of a six-match homestand.