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The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Women’s Tennis: Vanderbilt starts 2023 season strong at Kitty Harrison Invitational

Bridget Stammel, Célia-Belle Mohr and Valeria Ray led the way for a Vanderbilt team with high expectations for the year ahead.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Célia-Belle Mohr and Anessa Lee advanced to their bracket’s doubles finals at the Kitty Harrison Invitational (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Vanderbilt Women’s Tennis opened its fall 2023 season with a trip to Chapel Hill, N.C. to compete in the Kitty Harrison Invitational. Although the Commodores failed to secure any tournament gold, a solid team-wide effort and strong underclassmen performances should leave the Black and Gold faithful optimistic about the season ahead.

“All in all, I was actually pretty pleased with where we were as a team,” head coach Aleke Tsoubanos said. “They were all very competitive. That was my message to the team going into the weekend.”

With 48 contestants from 11 schools, the tournament was broken down into three singles and three doubles brackets. Participants played two rounds before being broken into semifinals and consolation brackets. Vanderbilt featured two student-athletes in each singles bracket and a pair in each doubles. Alongside host North Carolina, the Commodores faced competition from Auburn, Charlotte, Clemson, Duke, Florida, NC State, Old Dominion, Penn State and Wisconsin.

Navy Singles Bracket:

Vanderbilt was represented in the Navy bracket by senior Anessa Lee, who’s ranked No. 103 nationally in singles, and freshman Valeria Ray, who was ranked the No. 9 incoming freshman in the country. On the opening day of competition, both Commodores bested their opening opponents in two sets before moving on to stiffer, ranked competition.

Lee’s second match began much the same as her first with a resounding 6-2 victory in the opening set against No. 92 Rachel Gailis of Florida. Refusing to be knocked out early, Gailis stormed back in the second set to claim her own victory and force the match to a third confrontation. In a showdown epic in both length and competitiveness, the Gator outlasted the Commodore senior 10-5 and relegated the latter to the consolation bracket.

On a nearby court, Ray — in just her second match as a collegiate athlete — found herself in a bitter contest with Clemson’s Eleni Louka, ranked No. 86 nationally. After a comfortable win in the first set, the Tiger drug Ray into the mud for a nail-biting 7-6 (4) finish in tiebreakers that saw the Commodore narrowly advance. For a freshman making her collegiate tournament debut, the defeat of any opponent would be a cause for celebration. The defeat of a ranked competitor was enough to draw a cacophony of applause.

“I loved it,” Tsoubanos said of Ray’s debut. “She was as I expected: a pretty fierce competitor.”

In the consolation bracket, Lee lost the opening match to Charlotte’s Lucia Quitero, ranked No. 114, before becoming the second Commodore on the weekend to beat Louka — this time in three sets. She would finish the weekend 2-2 in singles play.

In the semifinals of the Navy bracket, Auburn graduate student Selin Ovunc dominated the freshman Ray in the opening set, winning 6-1. Despite a valiant comeback attempt that forced the second set to tiebreakers, Ray fell just short of extending the match and was relegated to consolation play. In the next match, she lost in three sets to the aforementioned Gailis.

Round 1: Lee defeated Yvone Zuffova (Penn State) 6-4, 7-6 (6)

Round 1: Ray defeated Taylor Cataldi (Wisconsin) 6-2, 6-4

Round 2: Gailis defeated Lee 2-6, 6-2, 10-5

Round 2: Ray defeated Louka 6-2, 7-6 (4)

Consolation: Quiterio defeated Lee 6-1, 6-0

Semifinals: Ovunc defeated Ray 6-1, 7-6 (3)

Consolation: Lee defeated Louka 6-2, 3-6, 10-4

Consolation: Gailis defeated Ray 6-4, 4-6, 10-6

White Singles Bracket:

Sophomore Bridget Stammel, the second-highest ranked Commodore at No. 67, and junior Amy Stevens represented Vanderbilt in the White bracket. After a quick dispatching of Charlotte’s Lucie Petruzelova in the opening round, Stammel won a grueling three-set match against Florida freshman Qavia Lopez — the No. 7 ranked freshman in the country.

Stammel had another convincing win in the semifinals as she defeated North Carolina’s Theadora Rabman in 6-4 and 6-2 sets. That set the stage for a finals showdown against fellow Tar Heel Carson Tanguilig, who, at No. 19, would be the highest-ranked opponent any Commodore faced all weekend. After dropping the opening set 6-1, Stammel mounted a valiant second set comeback attempt but ultimately fell short 7-5. Despite the bitter finish, she made it further in singles than any other Vanderbilt player.

“[Stammel was] one that stood out,” Tsoubanos said. “She put together three pretty good matches to get into the finals… [and] had some opportunities there in the second set [of the finals] to almost force a third.”

After losing in the opening two rounds, Stevens managed to secure a victory against Auburn’s Esposito Cogan in back-to-back 6-4 sets. The junior would go on to lose the final consolation match and finished 1-3 on the weekend.

Round 1: Stammel defeated Petruzelova 6-0, 6-3

Round 1: Kira Matushkina (Old Dominion) defeated Stevens 6-4, 6-2

Round 2: Stammel defeated Lopez 7-5, 2-6, 10-4

Round 2: Emily de Oliveira (Florida) defeated Stevens 6-1, 6-2

Semifinals: Stammel defeated Rabman 6-4, 6-2

Consolation: Stevens defeated Cogan 6-4, 6-4

Finals: Tanguilig defeated Stammel 6-1, 7-5

Consolation: Jenna Thompson (Clemson) defeated Stevens 6-2, 6-2

Blue Singles Bracket:

Vanderbilt was well accounted for in the Blue bracket with senior Holly Staff and No. 12 Célia-Belle Mohr, the top ranked Commodore in singles competition. Both players won their opening matches in two sets against opponents from Old Dominion before moving on to face Power Five competition.

After topping Wisconsin’s No. 57 Maria Sholokhova in the first set of the second round, Staff came back down to earth with losses of 6-1 and 10-6 to confine her to the consolation bracket. Once there, she defeated Clemson’s No. 101 Dani Medvedeva in two sets.

Despite cruising in the opening round, Mohr quickly ran into trouble as she faced Katie Codd of Duke. Mohr’s fellow sophomore narrowly got the better of her in both sets as she won 6-4 and 7-5. Never one to get down on her abilities, the French Commodore bounced back in the consolation bracket with a defeat of Florida’s Malwina Rowinska — including a 6-0 victory in the second set.

Round 1: Bohr defeated Allison Isaacs 6-3, 6-3

Round 1: Staff defeated Sophia Johnson 7-6 (6), 7-5

Round 2: Codd defeated Mohr 6-4, 7-5

Round 2: Sholokhova defeated Staff 3-6, 6-1, 10-6

Consolation: Mohr defeated Rowinska 7-6 (4), 6-0

Consolation: Staff defeated Medvedeva 6-4, 6-3

Tar Doubles Bracket:

Ray and Staff teamed up to defeat Sophia Abrams and Anna Zyryanova of NC State in Ray’s first doubles competition with the Commodores. After the 8-4 victory, the tandem found themselves narrowly on the losing end of the semifinals against the No. 27 pair Gailis and Carly Briggs of Florida. A similar fate awaited them in the consolation bracket against Xinyu Cai and Sholokhova of Wisconsin.

Round 1: Ray and Staff defeated Abrams and Zyryanova 8-4

Semifinals: Briggs and  Gailis defeated Ray and Staff 8-5

Consolation: Cai and Sholokhova defeated Ray and Staff 8-3

Ram Doubles Bracket:

Despite up-and-down results from singles competition, both Lee and Mohr stepped up big time in doubles play to force their way to the finals of the Ram bracket. After an 8-3 victory over a pair from Penn State and a nail-biting 8-6 advantage over another from Charlotte, the Commodores found themselves opposite Gabriella Broadfoot and Abigail Rencheli of NC State for the final match. In an intensely competitive game from start to finish, Lee and Mohr found themselves just barely on the losing end of the match following tiebreakers.

“They played a really good match,” Tsoubanos said. “I think maybe [they] got a little bit tentative… [and] a little bit reactive.”

Round 1: Lee and Mohr defeated Olivia Dorner and Yvonne Zuffova 8-3

Semifinals: Lee and Mohr defeated Quiterio and Schech 8-6

Finals: Broadfoot and Rencheli defeated Lee and Mohr 8-7 (3)

Heel Doubles Bracket:

Stammel and Stevens couldn’t extend the former’s singles dominance into the realm of doubles, as the duo dropped all three matches over the weekend. These included losses to competitors from Wisconsin, Charlotte and Penn State.

Round 1 — Cataldi and Rosie Garcia Gross (Wisconsin) defeated Stammel and Stevens 8-4

Consolation —  Lucia Aranda and Petruzelova (Charlotte) defeated Stammel and Stevens 8-4

Consolation — Dorner and Zuffova defeated Stammel and Stevens 8-1

Up Next:

“I think we’re in a good position,” Tsoubanos told The Hustler after the tournament. “Let’s use this strong event early to see where we are as a group and what we need to work on.”

After a long weekend of competition, Vanderbilt will get right back into action at the June Stewart Invitational in Nashville from Sept. 22-24. Last season, the Commodores dominated a field of competition that included Illinois, Middle Tennessee, Missouri and Purdue.

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About the Contributor
Jayce Pollard
Jayce Pollard, Non-revenue Sports Specialist
Jayce Pollard (‘25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in public policy and economics and minoring in data science and Spanish. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can catch Jayce trying to learn the rules of soccer, hating on the Arkansas Razorbacks and being chronically on Twitter. He can be reached at [email protected]
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