Sept. 30, 2011
ITA Riviera Info | 2011 Season Schedule
WACO, Texas - It isn't easy replacing three seniors from a Final Four team, but another trio of seniors and four talented newcomers has Baylor women's tennis head coach Joey Scrivano excited for the challenge of the upcoming season.
That season begins Oct. 1-9 when five members of Scrivano's team play in the singles and doubles of the ITA/Riviera All-American in Pacific Palisades, Calif. In singles, Jordaan Sanford, a sophomore transfer from Maryland, will enter in the pre-qualifying singles round and will need to win three matches to join senior Diana Nakic in the qualifying round. Returning All-American seniors Sona Novakova and Nina Secerbegovic will each start play in the Main Draw. In doubles, Sanford and freshman Nicole Kosakowski are paired in the qualifying round of doubles, while Novakova and Secerbegovic earned a berth into the Main Draw.
The Riviera is the first of seven fall tournaments for the Lady Bears, who are coming off the second Final Four in program history and a 29-4 season. Baylor will begin the season with four ranked singles players and one ranked doubles tandem. The senior trio all rank in the top 30 with Novakova 13th, Secerbegovic 23rd and Nakic 28th. Sanford rounds out the singles rankings at No. 97, while freshman Ema Burgic is tabbed fourth in the newcomer rankings. The duo of Novakova and Secerbegovic will begin the season ranked 10th.
"To have our top three players coming back is a nice foundation to have going into this season," head coach Joey Scrivano said. "Those three seniors were a big reason for our success last year. However, every year is a new year, and the challenging part is for us to understand that what we did last year doesn't matter now."
The top of the Baylor lineup will most likely be a combination of Novakova, Secerbegovic and Nakic, providing Scrivano with three capable lineup leaders.
"It's tough to say what order those three are going to be when we start dual-match play, but that's a good thing," Scrivano said. "All three are capable of occupying that top spot, so we'll have some great competition between those three."
Novakova, who occupied the No. 1 spot in the lineup last season and responded with a team-best 14 wins over ranked opponents, enters the season ranked the highest nationally. She earned All-NCAA Tournament and all-Big 12 Singles honors, while also being named the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year.
"Sona had a very good year, but she is going to have to fundamentally improve her game and get better as the season goes along," Scrivano said. "Right now she is on track to doing that. She's working smart, and we have a better vision of what works with her from a training standpoint."
Secerbegovic earned All-America honors for the second time in 2011, while leading the Lady Bears with 31 singles wins and ranking second on the team with 12 wins over ranked opponents. She was also named all-Big 12 in both singles and doubles.
"Nina is playing at such a high level, but the beautiful thing is she has a ton of room to grow," Scrivano said. "Its amazing with such an accomplished player, that she still has room to grow. She can become an even better player than she's been."
Nakic, like Novakova, spent her first season in a Baylor uniform after transferring and posted a 30-win season with numerous accolades. Nakic was named to the all-NCAA Tournament Team, earned all-Big 12 singles honors and was named the Big 12 Championship Most Outstanding Player. She highlighted her season with a team-best 17-match win streak.
"Diana had an incredible dual-match season, she's just a warrior out there," Scrivano said. "To her credit, she stayed in Waco this summer and put a lot of time into becoming more technically sound. I love the way she competes, her court presence is phenomenal."
Quartet of Newcomers
Outside of the three seniors, the other four members will be making their debuts in the Green and Gold this season, but possess a solid combination of talent and coachability, according to Scrivano.
"What I really like about this new nucleus is there intangibles," Scrivano said. "They work incredibly hard, have high character and are extremely passionate about tennis. When you have those qualities, it's only a matter of time before you break through and have success at the collegiate level."
Sanford, the transfer from Maryland, holds the only collegiate-level experience having played one season in the No. 1 and 2 spots at the top of the Terrapin lineup last season. She posted a 20-12 record last season at UM before transferring to Baylor over the summer.
"Jordaan had a very nice season at Maryland, and is accustomed to playing a tough schedule," Scrivano said. "We like that she is bringing some experience to the table even though she's a newcomer. We really like what we are seeing in practice from her."
Along with Sanford, Baylor will rely upon a trio of freshman in Burgic, Kosakowski and Megan Horter. Kosakowski will be the only one of the three in action this weekend, returning to her home state of California.
"Nicole has tremendous upside and hits the ball incredibly hard," Scrivano said. "She is becoming an elite server. She needs experience, but playing a handful of fall tournaments is going to go a long way for her."
Burgic may boast the deepest junior resume' entering with multiple Fed Cup experiences for her native Bosnia and Herzegovina national teams. Burgic also earned recognition on the 10-player newcomer rankings released by the ITA earlier this summer.
"Out of the three freshmen, Ema is coming in with the most accomplished junior career," Scrivano said. "She has gotten a lot of experience under her belt at a young age. She is coming in willing to make changes to her game and buy into the team concept."
Horter, a native Texan, enters Baylor from Southlake Carroll High School as the No. 2 ranked player in the state and an all-district selection.
"Megan has a great work ethic and is not afraid to do whatever it takes to improve," Scrivano said. "The longer she's in the program, and the longer she's on the practice court developing, the better she's going to be."