The East Carolina University women’s tennis team wrapped up its fall season last weekend, which included many firsts for the program. Head coach Tom Morris’ team has played well all season, while taking major steps forward as it turns its attention to the spring season.
This list of accomplishments is headlined by Celia Ruiz’s At-Large bid to the 2017 Oracle ITA National Fall Championships. Ruiz is the first player in ECU women’s tennis history to get this bid. For a player to be considered for an At-Large selection in singles play, they must reach the quarterfinals of the Oracle ITA Masters, the Round of 16 of the All-American Championships or the quarterfinals of an ITA Regional Championship. Ruiz qualified due to securing a spot in the Oracle ITA Masters.
“The difference...this season has been confidence,” Ruiz said. “I worked hard all summer, doing more lifting and conditioning and just a lot of extra work, and that has paid off on the court. It’s given me extra confidence because I’ve really felt in shape.”
Securing her At-Large bid at the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships wasn’t the only first for Ruiz. In October, Ruiz and Lisa Hofbauer became the first doubles pairing in Pirate women’s tennis history to earn a seed at the ITA Carolina Regional, taking the No. 9 spot.
“The success we have had comes slowly,” Morris said. “I think we’ve been knocking on the door, and have gotten a little bit better each year. The girls worked hard over the summer, and it has really shown in their play this fall.”
Aside from those firsts achieved by the Pirates, this fall season included great play in many of their matches. ECU opened the season well, winning four flights at its first event of the fall season in the home Pirate Invitational which took place from Sept. 21-23.
The Pirates performed well into October, as freshmen Alisa Diercksen and Ho-Chiao Hsia won their singles bracket championship at the Wake Forest Invitational on Oct. 6-8. This was the first championship for each player.
“I think I’ve played good this season,” Diercksen said. “For me personally, this season has been a good confidence builder for me, and I feel like it has been a really good season for the whole team. I think our play this season will be a good confidence boost for the team heading into the spring.”
The Pirates finished the season strong at the Kitty Harrison Invitational in Chapel Hill last Friday through Sunday as they went 3-5 in their doubles matches, while dominating in the singles going 12-5, with an impressive score of 5-1 against the University of Virginia.
ECU will look to continue its success from this achievement-filled fall season as it prepares for its spring season, which starts in January, though the first tournament date has yet to be announced. Morris thinks his team will be ready and has faith in his players to continue their hard work until the spring season starts.
“We’re doing everything we can to stay prepared this offseason,” Morris said. “We will be doing workouts as much as we can, and I think the girls are working out and hitting on their own. We can't require the girls to do anything on their own, but I think we have a team that is interested in getting better, and it has really shown this fall season.”