‘Well-rounded’ newcomers diversify skills on court

Three freshman and two transfers joined the team this season.

Freshman Yining Tian awaits a serve at the Cissie Leary Invite at Penn on Sept. 22 | Sean Mac Donald / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When looking to add recruits for the 2018-19 women’s tennis team, Temple University coach Steve Mauro sought “well-rounded” athletes who can play both singles and doubles.

All five newcomers fit what Mauro wanted for his team, he said. 

Oleksandra Doroshenko and Chunan Xiang joined the team as junior transfers. Stefaniya Surikova, Yining Tian and Ruoyu Chen are the three freshmen who are part of the 2018 recruiting class. Three of the players — Xiang, Tian and Chen — are from China.

All five newcomers have played in at least one doubles and singles match this season.

“We are really excited about the girls that we have,” Mauro said. “They have been working really hard in practice, and they have had good performances so far.”

After going 10-8 last year, Temple hopes to win the American Athletic Conference this season. Last season, the Owls went 2-1 in regular-season conference play before losing, 4-0, to Southern Methodist in the first round of the postseason tournament.

“Between all five of them, I think they have a good chance to start matches,” Mauro said. “It is going to be a work in progress because we still have a lot to do if we want to win a championship… but we really like our chances this year.” 

Chen, a native of Shanghai, was Temple’s first signing of the 2018 recruiting class. She won the under-10, under-12 and under-14 Shanghai Championships, and she won the U16 championships in 2016.

Chen won her first two matches for the Owls. She defeated Princeton University junior Gaby Pollner, 6-3, 6-1 on Sept. 14 at the Princeton Invitational. Her second win came alongside Doroshenko, a transfer from Southeast Missouri State University who is originally from Kharkiv, Ukraine.

“The school and the facilities are so cool. …It is pretty easy for me to get used to it, and all of the other girls are really nice and the coaches help a lot,” Chen said.   

Chen and Doroshenko won a doubles match against Pollner and Princeton senior Catalina Vives, 7-6 (3). Chen finished with a 2-2 record in doubles and a 2-1 record in singles play at Princeton. 

The duo also competed at the Cissie Leary Invitational hosted by Penn from Sept. 21 to 23. They reached the semifinal round of the competition, which featured Penn, Penn State, Drexel, Columbia University, Cornell University and Princeton. 

Surikova, a native of Lipetsk, Russia, also made the semifinal round of the doubles competition at the Cissie Leary Invitational with junior Kristina Titova. 

In their first competition, Surikova and Chen earned a doubles victory on the second day of the Princeton Invite in a doubles match against Penn freshman Melissa Plambeck and sophomore Jimena Rodriguez-Benito. Suirkova also won a singles match against Syracuse University senior Libi Mesh.  

Tian is originally from Changsha, China, where she became a celebrated tournament champion. She also attended IMG Academy, a boarding school in Bradenton, Florida that blends athletic and academic development. 

She earned her first win on the last day of the Princeton Invite by beating Tigers junior Tiffany Chen after winning a tiebreaker, 10-2, in the deciding third set.

Before coming to Temple, Xiang went to the University of Central Arkansas. She went 13-7 in singles as a freshman. As a sophomore, she posted a 13-6 record in doubles.  

In addition to the newcomers, Temple has four returning players this year — Titova,  junior Cecilia Castelli, senior Alice Patch and sophomore Oyku Boz. 

The team believes that despite having players from diverse backgrounds they are working well together. While arriving for the second day of the Cissie Leary Invitational, the Owls laughed and made jokes following their individual performances.  

“Everyone is getting along pretty well,” Boz said. “We have a very good team. We are coming strong, better than last year for sure.”

The Owls will return to Penn on Friday to Sunday for the Penn Invitational.

“For sure we are going to perform well,” Chen added.  “I have confidence.”

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