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Buffalo Bulls Women's Tennis: Spring 2015 Preview

I've learned now from Men's Tennis that the fall season may not be the best indicator of spring success, but looking over the last year of UB Women's Tennis, the fall was an encouraging continuation of a strong spring season.

I know I say that a lot, but know this: UB was 15-6 (5-3 MAC) last season, their best marks since a 6-2 MAC run in 2008-09 and a 17-3 overall record in 2006-07. In postseason play, the Bulls advanced to their first MAC semifinal since 2010.

Relive the biggest Women's Tennis Stories of 2014: Were we close to a new coach? Starting the season with a bang

Key Departees

That said, Coach Kristen Ortman Maines has had to overhaul her roster after graduating four seniors. In a sport with small rosters like tennis, every departure is key.

Tanvi Shah - UB's #1 in her senior season, Shah leaves big shoes to fill. After a single season at NC State, Shah was named Second Team All-MAC twice and First Team All-MAC once in her three years in Amherst.

Miranda Podlas - The Bulls are replacing #2 in their 2014 lineup, as well. Podlas is a WNY native and was 5-5 in the MAC as a senior.

Marta Stoyanova and Anamaria Candanoza also graduated after usually filling the #5 and #6 spots. Shah and Stoyanova were named Academic All-MAC.

Key Returners

Only two of UB's top 6 return this year, but each put together encouraging numbers in the fall.

Laura Fernandez, Senior. The lone senior on this year's team, Fernandez steps into a big role. In the fall, she teamed up with Laura Holterbosch for a 4-1 doubles record. With a strong spring season she should crack the top ten in UB's singles record book.

Margarita Kotok, Sophomore. Learn this name. She's going to be very good. No, she already is. After just one and a half years at UB, Kotok is already on the cusp of the UB top-15 and at a 42-12 career singles record (including 10-3 this past fall) has the best winning percentage in UB history.

Kotok also combined with Christine Haraldson for a 5-2 doubles record this fall and with her next doubles win will pass current assistant coach Smaranda Stan for 14th in UB all-time doubles victories. By the end of this season, Kotok could already be in the top ten of both categories for UB.

2015 Newcomers

Christine Haraldson, Freshman. Haraldson comes to Buffalo from Sweden, where she's a top-20 player nationally. In the fall, Haraldson was 3-4 in singles but 6-3 in doubles play. Look for her to provide depth in the lower half of the lineup this year.

Tanja Stojanovska, Freshman. You'll notice a theme on UB tennis: International experience. Stojanovska is one of the top Macedonian tennis players and this past spring had a top-500 world juniors ranking. Coach Ortman Maines anticipated an "immediate impact" from the freshman, and we got that in the fall, when Tanja won the A Flight of the UB invitational over Kotok, and later advanced to the Round of 32 at the ITA Regionals.

Dayana Agasieva, Junior. Agasieva will add some upperclass experience to a young team after transferring from ASA College, where she won NJCAA national championships and All-America honors in both singles and doubles. This past fall, Dayana was 6-3 in singles and 5-4 in doubles play.

Doris Aleksovska, Freshman. (???) This one is new to the roster recently and UB hasn't said anything. She's also Macedonian, so maybe there's a connection to Stojanovska? I would do one of my normal highlight pieces, but there's nothing out there, other than that she's rooming with swimming newcomer Sharne Tiller. Hopefully we learn more soon.

2015 Schedule

The MAC is larger in Women's Tennis than Men's, as you'd expect, so Coach Ortman Maines' team gets a later and slower start to the year, and also faces a more national slate of opponents than the men.

We'll get our Big 4 grudge matches, as well as a handful of regional competitions, but the women will also travel to Texas and South Carolina while welcoming Rutgers and West Virginia into Amherst.

The Bulls have a chance to start MAC play fast, with three of their four home matches coming in the first half of the MAC slate, but then are on the road in April. Should they qualify for the MAC Championship, that's just the weekend following the date at Northern Illinois.

25 January @ St. Bonaventure
30 January New Mexico State (@ UTEP)
31 January Texas State (@ UTEP)
1 February @ UTEP
6 February West Virginia
20 February ASA
21 February Youngstown State
27 February @ Duquesne
1 March Niagara
7 March Binghamton
14 March @ College of Charleston
16 March Rutgers (@ C of C)
20 March @ Toledo*
22 March EMU*
27 March Miami*
29 March Bowling Green*
3 April @ Ball State*
5 April @ Western Michigan*
11 April Akron*
19 April @ Northern Illinois*

Final Thoughts

This is a seriously new-look team, so I just don't know what to think. Unlike the men, the ladies don't really face the same teams in the fall as the spring, They were pretty easily handled by WVU at the Mountaineers' invitational, while topped Niagara and Binghamton in their own UB Invitational.

Anytime a team turns over more than half its roster, you've got to be concerned. Additionally, I'm not too much help, since this is our first year really giving in depth coverage of everybody, with the new faces.

BUT. From the fall results it seems like Agasieva and Stojanovska are particularly strong newcomers. While the men's team enjoys real depth, you only need to win four points to win a match, and you can do that with a handful of consistent winners.

Look for Agasieva, Stojanovska, and Kotok to run the #1-#3 spots at the top of the lineup, and for UB to benefit in doubles play for three distinct pairings that developed during the fall season: the Lauras Fernandez and Holterbosch, Agasieva/Stojanovska, and Haraldson/Kotok.

Maybe this year isn't a breakthrough season for the Bulls. It's hard to tell with so many newcomers. But it certainly seems like there's new talent moving in, and if nothing else, we're setting up for a couple years of an experienced group.

Go Bulls.