Kentucky Women's Tennis Season Recap

June 14, 2010

LEXINGTON, Ky. - After many successful seasons that the Kentucky women's tennis team has experienced, unexpected circumstances and a series of injuries led to a very disappointing year for the Wildcats during the 2010 campaign.

Three players saw their careers end before the spring season began. Senior Sarah Woestmann suffered a foot injury that forced her to stop playing prior to the fall season. Soon after, senior Whitney Spencer reinjured her shoulder and chose to graduate in December 2009. South African sophomore Chane Hines chose to return home before the 2010 spring semester. Two matches into the season, the Kentucky was struck again when junior Lauren Meier aggravated a shoulder injury, leaving the Blue and White with four remaining players.

UK head coach Carlos Drada brought Lexington-natives, freshman Elle Coldiron and junior Nicole Scates on board in January to help the Wildcats complete their roster. Nicole had spent her freshman year competing at Garden-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C. Both girls attended Lexington Christian High School, coached by Brenda Emery and Rockie Mason. The pair filled the No. 3 doubles spot as well as the 5th and 6th singles positions. Their willingness to compete and untiring spirit while doing so earned them CATSPYs Scratch Award nominations.

The Wildcats had a terrific start with close matches against Minnesota and Georgia Tech, then ranked 69th and 10th respectively. At the ITA Kickoff Weekend, the Blue and White upset then-No. 24 Alabama 4-3. Alabama scored the doubles point on courts two and three, but Kentucky came roaring back, defeating the Crimson Tide on the top four courts and winning every match in three-set battles. Captain Christine Johnston knocked off Paulina Bigos, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3. At No. 1 singles, Megan Broderick took out Courtney McLane after three sets, 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3. Sophomore Caroline Lilley had her first win over a ranked opponent, upsetting 82nd-ranked Alexa Guarachi on the second court 7-6, 5-7, 7-6 (11-9). The clinching point fell to Minnette Pienaar as she overpowered Meritt Emery 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.

Drada said of the match, "This is one of the highlights of my coaching career. Not only am I happy from a win-loss standpoint, but because of choices our kids made. We chose to be mentally tough through courage and belief."

For the 13th consecutive year, the Wildcats claimed a win over the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky University. The Wildcats took the doubles point, while Broderick, Lilley, Johnston, and Pienaar won their singles matches, ending in a 5-2 victory.

Battling the adversity set before them, the Blue and White stayed competitive throughout the season, causing some close calls against Atlantic Sun Conference champion East Tennessee State, eventual No. 22 Arkansas, and Alabama during conference play, all by 4-3 margins. Kentucky also played aggressive matches against tough Southeastern Conference opponent and NCAA Championships quarterfinalist, Tennessee, as well as Round of 16 qualifier, Ole Miss.

Johnston, finished her career as a Wildcat in valiant style. She led her team both on and off the court, finishing her singles year 15-8 (7-3) and being honored four times in the postseason. Johnston accepted two prestigious SEC tributes, including a selection to the SEC Community Service Team and her second appointment to the All-SEC second-team (2008). Later that week, Johnston was the female recipient of the CATSPYs Character Award. To trump them all, the Columbus, Ohio native was named the Ohio Valley honoree for the ITA Cissie Leary Award for Sportsmanship during the NCAA Tournament in Athens, Ga.

During the fall season, Johnston joined Woestmann when the pair was inducted into the Frank G. Ham Society of Character, awarded to student-athletes by UK Athletics to become the first pair in program history named to the impressive group.

The Society of Character is part of the University of Kentucky's CHAMPS/Life Skills Program. It is designed to help student-athletes realize the value of higher academic achievement, a higher level of maturity, self-responsibility and greater overall success. The Society was founded in 1998 to recognize those individuals who epitomize the term "student-athlete." Each candidate is nominated by a counselor, coach, trainer or manager and then evaluated on five criteria of commitment to academic excellence, commitment to athletic participation, commitment to personal development, commitment to being a role-model, and commitment to preparing for the world of work.

The mission of the Society of Character is:

to recognize student-athletes who have achieved and continue to achieve a high level in all areas of their life,
to bring together these high achieving student-athletes for interactive programs:
to further enhance the high achieving student-athletes' best interests and well being,
to promote continued interaction with other organizations.

Each candidate nominated for election into the Society of Character must meet the following requirements:

must have completed a minimum of 30 hours prior to nomination,
must have a competitive grade-point average,
must demonstrate a commitment to their academic success as well as to personal development, career development and service activities.

Johnston also enjoyed three winnings streaks this season, two in singles and one with doubles partner Broderick. At No. 3 singles, Johnston streaked through Isabell Raich (Marshall), Katya Zapadalova (Indiana), Natalia Mayuk (Mississippi State) and Abby Guthrie (Ole Miss) in her first run and Anouk Faure (EKU), Andra Voinea (ETSU), Myrthe Molenveld (Auburn) and Meritt Emery (Alabama) in her second. With Broderick, the duo had impressive wins against Yvette Hyndman/Cameron Ellis (Georgia), Jessica Albuquerque/Esmira Gheisary (EKU), Kelly Holtzhausen/Andra Voinea (ETSU) and upset of No. 33 team Rosalía Alda/Zsofia Zubor (Tennessee).

Broderick continued to be a dangerous player at No. 1 singles. During the fall season, she ranked No. 77 and finished with a 5-3 mark. She celebrated a strong win over then 44th-ranked Hyndman and qualified for the highly esteemed ITA All-American Championships. In the spring, Broderick had her best win over then-No. 39 Alexa Guarachi of Alabama, 6-1, 6-3. The Tampa, Fla. native returns for the 2010-2011 season as the only senior. Along with her win over Guarachi, Caroline Lilley also upset 66th-ranked Sasha Krupina of Georgia Tech 6-4, 6-3. The native of Portland, Ore. not only excels on the court, but in the classroom by maintaining a 4.0 GPA as a finance major. 

The program celebrated three graduating team members. Carolina Mayorga and Whitney Spencer received their diplomas this winter, before spring semester when Sarah Woestmann graduated. Teammate Christine Johnston will finish her classes this coming fall.

"This season showed us that we can experience adversity and still compete, regardless of the situation," commented Drada about the year as a whole, "It is difficult to overcome something like the circumstances we were faced with, but those that did, competed without excuses and were made stronger because of it. I think they will look back on this year and realize that it made them tougher and more resilient. As a coach I learned how to deal with adversity and what not to do. Our girls were grateful to have enough players to compete as a team. Regardless of what each person contributed, everyone was valued equally. The most important contribution was that of positive attitudes and competing with integrity and class."