This past Sunday, the women’s tennis team served, hit and volleyed their way to a 4-0 win over Xavier in the finals of the Atlantic Ten Conference Women’s Championship to capture their fourth A-10 crown in program history.
As Temple wrapped up its first conference tournament title since 2003, juniors Dina Senkina and Felicia Frazier were there to support the second-seeded Owls (16-4) — not just with their talent, but also with seasoned advice and guidance.
On a team with no seniors and a first-year coach, Senkina and Frazier have assumed roles of leadership, helping the other seven members of the team to improve their skills on the court.
“This has been a year of transition,” coach Jill Breslin said. “But it’s been a smooth transition, mostly because of Dina and Felicia.”
Senkina, originally from Moscow, Russia, transferred to Temple as a sophomore after spending a year at Liberty University, a fundamentalist Baptist school in Lynchburg, Va.
“I wanted a bigger city and bigger tennis,” she said.
Bigger tennis she got.
Senkina is the Owls’ No. 1 singles player and half of the No. 2 doubles team with sophomore Elyse Steiner. She attained an 11-5 singles record (8-2 in doubles) and won 14 straight matches earlier in the season. She was named the A-10 Player of the Week on Feb. 16.
During last weekend’s A-10 Championship, which was held Monroeville, Pa., Senkina won all four of the matches she finished, leading the team to victory.
“We can always trust [Senkina] to go out there and give 110 percent in every game, whether she’s playing singles, doubles, whatever,” Breslin said.
Frazier, too, is a vital player.
She hails from Riverdale, Ga., and was recruited to the Owls by the team’s last coach, Traci Green. Occupying the No. 6 singles slot, she finished the 2007-08 regular season with a successful 9-2 record, winning seven of her last eight matches.
“Felicia has the biggest heart,” Breslin said. “She’s full of passion. We’ll be down 5-2, and she’ll decide to win the game back and spend the rest of the time chasing balls up and down the court. She’s got so much grit and intensity, it’s amazing to watch.”
As Frazier sees it, having the right attitude is key.
“I just try to keep myself pumped up the entire time while I’m on the court. I try to stay positive and focused,” she said.
Perhaps because the team is so young — aside from Senkina and Frazier, the Owls’ roster boasts three sophomores and four freshmen — the players have gotten close.
They all live in apartments at The Edge at Avenue North and spend time together outside of practices and matches.
“Everyone gets along really well,” Senkina said. “We’ve become very good friends.”
In addition to being cohesive, the team also shares responsibilities.
“We’re the leaders,” Frazier said. “But everyone plays their own role and everyone carries weight. We all try to help and support each other.”
This kind of esprit de corps helped the Owls earn their automatic berth to the NCAA Championship this past weekend.
Breslin said she hopes the team remains strong until May 9, when the first round of the tournament begins. She also hopes that Senkina and Frazier continue to influence and inspire the younger players with their spirit and determination, just as they did all season.
“They’ve gotten the girls to really step it up,” Breslin said. “Everyone’s thinking about trying to fill their shoes [when they leave].”
Anna Hyclak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.