The University of Rhode Island women’s tennis team has already surpassed their 2-16 record last season by going 4-0 to start year with eight out of the ten players being underclassmen.
Rhode Island started their early winning streak this year with a late-match rally while visiting Bryant University to earn their first win 4-3 on Sept. 27. In their second match of the season, URI defeated Providence College 6-1. They swept five out of six single matches with senior Taylor Holden leading the way in both singles and doubles victories on Providence’s home court. The Rams then returned home to the Hassenfeld Tennis Complex where the team competed in their URI Invitational against Siena College, and Monmouth University on Saturday Oct. 8. URI would just narrowly defeat Siena 3-2 before sweeping Monmouth 5-0, en route to their 4-0 overall start.
Although the season is young, the successful first few outings have been a welcome sign for a program that won just two matches last season. URI’s freshmen have been major contributors for the team’s success this year as the freshmen recruiting class was ranked No. 33 nationally prior to the season.
“We brought in an incredibly good freshman class, and that has made a huge difference,” Head Coach Tim Murphy said. “Last year we just didn’t have enough bodies to compete so the big difference has been the recruiting class and they have all responded really well to college and college tennis so far.”
Three of the seven freshmen in the highly regarded class have stood out to Murphy, specifically during the hot start to the season.
“Mihaela [Codreanu], Rachel [Smilansky], and Tiara [Higuchi] have been our three top freshmen who have led the impact this season,” Murphy said. “Taylor [Holden] has also really stepped her game up as a senior.”
With such a young core that still has much room to grow and progress into the college game, it is the senior leadership from Taylor Holden and Jordan Rucks that has made the transition for the seven freshman virtually seamless thus far.
“Both of the seniors with their leadership and their maturity being around the freshmen, helping them not only with tennis but college life,” Murphy said. “It has been a tremendous help.”
Rhode Island will be facing their toughest slate of opponents this weekend October 21-23, in the ITA Northeast Regional at Yale University. The Rams and their youth will be facing Ivy League and Atlantic Coast Conference opponents during the invitational.
“We might have five or six of our ladies competing in the regional this weekend, but it will be tough because the Ivy’s will be there, and Boston College from the ACC,” Murphy said. “So we are going to be playing against a lot of nationally ranked teams. If we can get a few rounds in I will be very pleased.”