Temple Women’s Tennis has seen two unlikely doubles teams grow from being unknowns in the collegiate tennis community to lethal duos in dual play so far. All it took was a little match-making from assistant coach Frederika Girsang.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association now has Jamie Wei and Maiko Uchijima ranked as the No. 6 women’s doubles pair in college tennis, while teammates Evie Wei and Veronika Kulhava received a ranking of No. 55. The ITA released their rankings on Feb. 8, but the athletes within Temple tennis have known how strong their top two units are for a long time.
“We just play different people and kind of see who matches best playing-wise,” Girsang said. “We just put it in a match and see how they do, so far it’s been working.”
Jamie, a graduate student, and freshman Uchijima didn’t know each other in early 2022, but in less than a year they’ve built a bond on and off the court. Their chemistry as the first doubles pair blossomed during the fall season after amassing a 14-1 record, which they hope to surpass this spring season.
Temple’s Jamie Wei and Uchijima went on a deep run in the fall ITA Championships, where the duo knocked off the No. 3 ranked Texas Tech pair of Cristina Tiglea and Metka Komac, who are now ranked No. 27 by the ITA.
“It felt great,” Jamie said about their victory over Texas Tech. “Temple isn’t necessarily like a big tennis school, and when you see Temple out there and then when you see Texas [Tech] and then we also beat Wake Forest, those are big tennis schools. At nationals we were just out there playing our best.”
Jamie’s younger sister, Evie, and her partner, Kulhava, have impressed head coach Steve Mauro as well. The expectations for both units continue to rise as they keep winning, and the motivation only fuels their competition in practice.
Evie Wei, a junior, and Kulhava have only played in three matches together, but they moved up in the rankings after defeating then-No. 30 VCU’s first doubles, Kulhava, a sophomore, said.
While constantly facing off in training, the two doubles are the epitome of ‘iron sharpens iron’ each and every day. This is a key component to their success on the court.
“Our teammates’ ranking is so high,” Evie said. “It motivates us to want to play better and to have a higher ranking like that.”
Evie and Kulhava have built an impressive companionship on the court as the Taiwanese and Czech Republic natives respectively bring an enhanced skill set. Their ability to win individual matches and compete in unison on the floor has made them a threat to knock off some of the best pairs in the nation.
A bystander could never tell that these four athletes play so powerfully on the court due to their calm demeanors off the court. In their free time, the team, which mostly consists of Asian players, often visits Chinatown for food at different restaurants.
“As you can see with this team, 80 percent of us are Asian,” Jamie said. “We go eat a lot of food. We make a connection there. Good food brings people together.”
For a team as diverse as Temple Women’s Tennis, such a high-level of camaraderie can be attributed to not only the athletes but the recruiting process.
Mauro and Girsang each have a say in where Temple will recruit their women’s players each offseason, but the quality of character is a hard aspect to recruit. Temple has still found a way to successfully recruit both good tennis players and good people.
Now it’s time for the long spring season ahead. The Owls recently won 7-0 against both St. Francis Brooklyn (0-6, 0-0 The Northeast Conference) and Wagner (0-2, 0-0 The Northeast) to make them 3-1 on the young season so far.
The Wei sisters, Uchijima and Kulhava have many matches ahead in the near future, but they are taking each competition one at a time.
“Honestly, I would love us to win the championship,” Jamie said. “But it’s one round at a time.”