Tech women’s tennis has 14 matches under their belt so far this season, and 12 of those 14 have been victories. It is the second year in a row that the Jackets have quickly moved up through the ranks of the ACC, and it seems like this year they have accelerated upwards even faster. So a bystander might ask, what has Tech been doing differently that has prompted such great successes this early in the season?
Some may argue that a change in lineup has forced the team to work even harder to prove themselves on the court, but it could be just the opposite. Returning for her second year as a team captain, senior Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer has helped hold the team together over the last three years. Beyond her prowess on the court, her infectiously positive attitude is another way the California native has contributed to the team.
Though she’s been forced to take some time off for health issues, and she’s uncertain that the professional circuit is what she wants to do after Tech, Anton-Ohlmeyer continues to make Tech tennis one of her biggest priorities. As a captain, she has lofty goals for her senior season.
Step one seems to be getting back in playing condition. She explained, “Now that I’m
healthy again, which was my number one goal, my next goal is to continue to lead the team as best as I possibly can.
“My third goal, which is a bit more quantitative, is to obviously win as many matches as we can, make sure that we are well over .500 for the record, top three ACC, hopefully win the ACC championship and continue on.”
Moving up or even maintaining a top spot in the ACC standings will be quite a challenge. The matches will only get tougher and the opponents more fierce. Notre Dame and North Carolina, first and second in the ACC right now, stand in the Jackets’ way.
There is reason to be optimistic about the former matchup. Tech has not lost a match against Notre Dame since 2013, and the team has no intentions of losing to the Fighting Irish now. They are equally focused on topping the Tar Heels, who have bested the Jackets in six out of seven matchups over the last five years and consistently end seasons at the top of ACC standings.
When asked about Tech’s toughest competition, Anton-Ohlmeyer said, “UNC for sure. We already topped Georgia, and that’s usually our biggest rival. They’ve always been really good and we were able to just beat them. UNC has a very, very strong lineup, but there’s no doubt in my mind that we can really go toe to toe.”
Anton-Ohlmeyer’s description is spot-on: the Jackets have demonstrated their strength early in the conference campaign, but North Carolina has done the same. Brian Kalbas, head coach of 13 years, leads a team headlined by Hayley Carter (seeded first in singles and doubles at the 2016 NCAA Championships) and impressive talent across the board. The Jackets will need to win on the basis of experience, and Anton-Ohlmeyer can do just that.
With the lineup split down the middle (four freshmen coming in and four returning athletes), Anton-Ohlmeyer has had her work cut out for her. For incoming freshmen that are used to competing for themselves on the junior circuit, collegiate tennis can be a bit of a difficult fit.
However, if the results so far prove anything, it is that Anton-Ohlmeyer and the Jackets have been doing something right. Team success in tennis does not come all down to a single person, but there is no doubt that the constant support of a strong team captain and high expectations to live up to can be the definitive factor in a team’s successful performance.
“I just pray that everyone competes to their absolute and best capability. That everyone gives it their all and lays all their cards down on the table,” she said.
Anton-Ohlmeyer then added, “When’s that’s the case, we’re like 12 and two right now, so it’s definitely showing, because more and more as we go along, everyone is laying their cards on the table and that’s what you have to do to be successful. That’s all I ask is everyone’s best.”
The team’s success so far is a good reflection on Anton-Ohlmeyer’s strategy as team captain. Currently ranked fifth in the nation by ITA Rankings and third in the ACC Standings, the Jackets are carrying a six-game winning streak and show every sign of continuing to impress on the court. It seems like Anton-Ohlmeyer’s high expectations and unwavering support for her teammates has made the road to winning an ACC Championship a little smoother. Next week, Tech welcomes Louisville and Miami to the Ken Byers Tennis Complex. The Cardinals and Hurricanes are excellent teams in their own right, and both worthy opponents.
But they are exactly the sorts of teams Tech has made its living beating over the past couple of weeks, and Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer is as strong a reason as any. Her record and statistics belie the real achievement she has accomplished over the course of this season: she and fellow senior Rasheeda McAdoo have guided the Jackets through a gauntlet.