The University of Georgia capped a perfect week at the 2019 USTA Tennis On Campus Spring Invitational in Orlando, Fla., and they may have scheduling to thank for it.
The Bulldogs, who were National Champions in 2013 and Fall Invitational winners in both 2015 and 2018, took home the Spring Invitational title for the first time. The school will now look to ride that momentum to a first-place finish at next week's Nationals.
“It was pretty exciting,” said UGA captain Anne Marcinkowski, a health promotion major from Johns Creek, Ga., who will graduate later this year. “This was the first Spring Invitational UGA has gone to as far as I know, because it's usually in Arizona. It's a money thing. It's hard to pay for flights to Arizona and usually it costs too much. I’m feeling pretty good about our season, no matter what. But it would be a huge deal to win [a National Championship].”
In the past, the Spring Invitational has been held in Surprise, Ariz. But with the 2019 National Championship taking place there, this year's tournament was moved to Orlando—a shorter, cheaper flight from Atlanta for a team that relied on hosting a 28-team co-ed club tennis tournament, increasing club dues and setting up a GoFundMe campaign to pay for airfare and accommodation.
The Bulldogs cruised through round-robin pool play at the USTA National Campus, compiling a stellar 90-16 record with comfortable wins over the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (30-3), the University of California - Davis (30-11) and the University of Charleston (30-2).
“The good part about pool play was that it allowed us to solidify our lineup and give our singles players a chance to warm up their games,” said Marcinkowski, who has played TOC all four years in college. “That was really helpful. But none of the teams were easy to play. They were all really strong.”
Having topped Pool C, Georgia then defeated Rowan University, 25-8, on Saturday morning in the first round of the Gold bracket before toppling UC Davis, 30-8, to reach the semifinals. The Bulldogs edged Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo, 27-20, in the Final Four and wrapped up its undefeated weekend with a 29-19 victory over Boston University.
“Cal Poly were really strong,” said Marcinkowski. “I think that was one of our harder matches. Then Boston had some really great players. Our team was pumped up and excited to play them. Our energy really helped us stay focused and not take it lightly.
“We had a pretty deep team which is great. We had a different team from last year’s Nationals and Fall Invitational, so no three teams stayed the same between those tournaments. It’s huge being able to bring in [freshmen] Olena [Bilukha] and Holden [Smith] and [first-time TOC players] Olivia [Hooks] and Sam [Hirshberg]. It makes me feel good that we’ll have a good base of players with experience and knowing what to expect from these tournaments.”
The University of Georgia team also featured sophomore John-Wesley Carlson, seniors Crews Enochs and David Wells and grad student Wilbur George. But it didn’t mean the Bulldogs lacked experience, with Carlson having played two years of varsity tennis and both Marcinkowski and George having played four years of Tennis On Campus and a year each of varsity.
Boston captain Maxine Krygier praised the way her team competed throughout the weekend, saying the squad collectively ran out of steam toward the end.
"We were really, really happy," said Washington, D.C. native Krygier. "Our team was made up of freshmen and returners and transfers that were new, so it was the first tournament with the whole team playing together. We played really hard and we were happy with second place. We're like a little family and it was truly the team aspect that brought us as far as we went.
"We would have liked to come out on top, but Georgia was a strong side and we lost a little bit of stream. All in all, we all played really well, but they were a strong team and good competition."
Boston University’s squad featured nine players, including five who had no varsity or Tennis On Campus experience. They were freshmen Nilos Makino and Matthew Wuyan, juniors Simran Kaur and Tommy Wang and sophomore Neha Garg.
The team, which earned Gold bracket wins over Arkansas, UCLA and Pittsburgh to reach the championship match, was rounded out by sophomore transfer student Scarlett Bydenburgh who played varsity tennis last year, three-year TOC player junior Alex Chin, and junior captain Krygier, who played varsity tennis in 2016-17 before joining the club tennis team the following year.
"For me, [playing club tennis] was about being able to have more of a well-rounded school experience, said Krygier, an international relations and business management and administration major who played varsity in 2016-2017 before joining the co-ed Tennis On Campus team the following year. "Varsity tennis takes up a lot of time, so it was about finding a group of players ability-wise and still making time for my studies, socializing and playing tennis."
Representing the USTA Southern section, Georgia will now turns its focus to the 2019 National Championships, held at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex, April 11-13.
The Bulldogs will join the 2018 TOC Spring Invitational winners the University of Texas - Austin, defending national champions Ohio State, and 61 other collegiate club tennis teams from across the country.
“Our first year of hosting the Spring Invitational at the USTA National Campus was phenomenal - lots of sun, fun, and great sportsmanship,” said USTA Tennis On Campus manager Newlyn Wing. “A huge thank you to all of our student leaders for their dedication; organizing a team to come to an event like this while juggling college courses is no easy task. Also a huge thank you to our partners, NIRSA and World TeamTennis and the great staff at the USTA National Campus."