TOWSON, Md. – With a 12-5 record and a trip to the Landmark Conference championship match for the first time in four years, last season was unquestionably a success for the Goucher women's tennis team. Repeating that accomplishment, however, will require contributions from a revamped starting lineup which is currently missing its top four players from the year before.
Meghan Lee (No. 2) and Addie Maxwell (No. 4) were lost to graduation, while Ariel Lin (No. 1) transferred to Rutgers and Alex Walsh (Greens Farm, Conn./Staples) (No. 3) is continuing to recover from an injury. Last year's group came two singles matches away from lifting the Landmark trophy before ultimately falling 5-3 to Scranton.
"It was a great year," head coach Sally Baum said. "I was so happy with that group and all that they accomplished. We still have the potential to be successful this season, but a lot of it depends on how things come together in the spring."
Replacing Lin, who was named conference player of the year after accumulating a 30-6 record across singles and doubles, will be a difficult task, but newcomer Amanda Bercovici (Hackensack, N.J./Bergen Tech) appears to be up to the challenge. The junior transfer posted a 27-5 singles record in her two seasons at Washington (Md.), and has already been a two-time recipient of the Landmark Women's Tennis Player of the Week award this fall.
"Amanda has made a huge difference for us so far," Baum said. "She's very experienced, very competitive, and we only expect her to get better as the year goes on. She certainly has the potential to be ranked regionally."
In the Gophers season debut at York, Kirsten Cianci (Bolton, Conn./Bolton) and Emily Ruff (Easton, Md./Easton) were slotted in the two spots below Bercovici in the lineup. Both had winning records last season playing primarily at the No. 5 and No. 6 singles positions, and Baum hopes that the pair benefits from competing at a higher level.
"They're definitely stepping up," the 2013 Landmark Coach of the Year said. "They're playing a couple spots higher than usual, but that doesn't mean it's not good for them. Whether you win or lose, playing better players often makes you better as well. And they're both working really hard."
Alice Goldstein-Plesser (Durham, N.C./Durham School of the Arts), who headlines a group of six freshmen joining the program, debuted at the No. 4 singles position against York and earned a victory in her first collegiate match.
"Alice has been a nice surprise for us so far," Baum said. "The freshmen as a whole are looking really good. They're all doing the extra work, which you don't always see in the first year."
Competition for the final few singles and doubles positions in the lineup is expected to be tight throughout the year. Team captains Ryan Derham (San Anselmo, Calif./Sir Francis Drake) and Hanora Barron (Auburn, N.Y./Auburn) earned starting spots against York, along with sophomore Sarah Callander (South Westbrook, Vt./Woodstock Union).
Walsh, who earned second-team all-conference recognition last season after finishing 13-3 in singles, will likely return towards the top of the lineup once she is healthy. Junior Kelsey Turner (Philadelphia, Pa./Germantown Friends), who is currently studying abroad, is also expected to see action when she returns in the spring. With so many moving parts, Baum is hoping everything will come together before the start of conference play.
"I think we've accomplished a lot already during the few weeks we've been on the court," she concluded. "It all comes down to how we progress in the next three or four months. I like how the group has come together, and they have a great collective work ethic. We'll just see how it plays out."