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Buffalo Bulls Women's Tennis 2016 Season Preview: Young UB talent gaining experience

UB Athletics

Like the men, the women slunk into the MAC Tournament last year with the last seed, but fell in their opening match to end their season. They don't have the championship nor the upperclass experience, but for the third year in a row have a standout freshman joining the group and appear set for a significant improvement in the spring season.

Who's gone?

Laura Fernandez was UB's lone senior, a reliable depth piece in both doubles and singles who teamed up in doubles with Laura Holterbosch. Her final year wasn't as strong as a 20-9 campaign and trip to the MAC Semifinals as a junior, but she was a key upperclass leader for a team with only one junior.

Doris Aleksovska joined UB at the semester break, saw little action, and is now at UT-Rio Grande Valle

Who's new?

Chantal Martinez-Blanco came to Buffalo a well-regarded four-star recruit out of Puerto Rico and has immediately backed up her pedigree, going 7-1 in tournament play during the fall, losing only to the eventual champion of her flight at Cornell's invitational but winning flights in finals matches over 2015 MAC Freshman of the Year Tanja Stojanovska in both UB's and West Virginia's invitationals. Look for her to sit at #1 singles immediately.

Big questions

How do Martinez-Blanco, Stojanovska, and Kotok stack up to the rest of the MAC's elite?

On the women's side, the MAC is a little more competitive nationally than for the men, so while UB's three years running with a freshman toward the top of the rotation, it's not a certain two or three points each dual yet. Stojanovska had no trouble with anyone last year, and Martinez-Blanco has cut through everyone she's seen, so if Buffalo takes a big jump forward, it'll be from these top three.

Can Laura Holterbosch build on a strong sophomore season if she moves up from #5 singles?

Holterbosch was quietly strong for the Bulls at #5 last year, going 5-2 against MAC competition. Outside of Kotok and Stojanovska, she was the only to post a winning record on the year. I could see her moving up to #4 singles after a 9-1 fall season and championships at Cornell and UB, but that of course means facing off with a slightly stronger opponent match-in and match-out.

Will Sanjana Sudhir and Mercedes Losada Rubio force their way into the lineup?

It'd be easy to build a good-looking lineup just on Martinez-Blanco and the returners, but two other freshman performed well enough in the fall to compete for the #5 and #6 spots, I think. Both in particular finished the fall strong, as Sudhir made the finals of her flight at the UB Invitational before falling to Kotok, and Losada Rubio won her flight.

Schedule

2016 UB Women's Tennis Schedule
Date Opponent Time
1/23 vs St. Francis (PA) 1 PM
1/30 at UConn Invitational
1/31 at UConn Invitational
2/5 vs Duquesne 7 PM
2/12 vs ASA College 1 PM
2/13 vs Niagara 1 PM
2/19 at West Virginia 10 AM
2/20 at Pittsburgh 9 AM
2/26 vs Youngstown St. 1 PM
2/27 vs Binghamton 1 PM
3/4 at Minnesota 5 PM
3/5 at Iowa State 11 AM
3/16 vs Navy (@ Puerto Rico)
3/17 vs NJIT (@ Puerto Rico)
3/25 vs Toledo 1 PM
3/27 at Eastern Michigan 1 PM
4/1 vs Western Michigan 1 PM
4/8 at Miami 1 PM
4/10 vs Ball State 1 PM
4/15 vs Northern Illinois (@Toledo) 1 PM
4/16 at Akron 11:30 AM
4/24 at Bowling Green 1 PM


Bottom line

This is a team on the rise, but there's a way to go to the top of the MAC. They certainly outperformed expectations in the fall, and the addition of Chantal Martinez-Blanco and Tanja Stojanovska in consecutive years not only makes them more competitive at the top of the lineup, but down the line as strong players like Margarita Kotok, Christin Haraldson, and Laura Holterbosch are free to compete against opposition lower in their teams' pecking order.

Last year UB was 7-11 and 3-4 in the MAC. It's probably fair to expect a .500 record overall, and perhaps even a winning record in conference.

Projected lineup:

Doubles

1. Laura Holterbosch/Tanja Stojanovska
2. Dayana Agasieva/Margarita Kotok
3. Sanjana Sudhir/Mercedes Losada Rubio

Singles

1. Chantal Martinez-Blanco
2. Tanja Stojanovska
3. Margarita Kotok
4. Laura Holterbosch
5. Dayana Agasieva
6. Christine Haraldson