Bridget Stammel: Bursting into blue skies

Vanderbilt’s Bridget Stammel is looking to build off of a fantastic freshman season.
Bridget Stammel warming up for the upcoming women’s double, as photographed on Oct. 9, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Ophelia Lu)
Bridget Stammel warming up for the upcoming women’s double, as photographed on Oct. 9, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Ophelia Lu)
Ophelia Lu

After a stellar fall season, the skies were threatening to pour on then freshman Bridget Stammel’s parade of victories. The Vanderbilt Women’s Tennis team was competing in the Women’s National Indoor Championship, and in back-to-back days, Stammel lost two tough three-set matches, both of which had directly contributed to Vanderbilt’s two narrow 4-3 losses in team scoring. Now, to stifle the gray of the impending storm and reclaim her winning ways, Stammel needed to defeat a challenging opponent in Stanford’s Alexis Blokhina. 

Fortunately for Stammel, her decisive match against Blokhina was a continuation of a tennis journey that had begun many years before, giving Stammel both the resiliency and the skill to compete at an elite level of collegiate play.

Stammel started playing tennis when she was about six years old, and although she demonstrated her athletic prowess at an early age in basketball, soccer, dance, gymnastics and swimming, it was always tennis that was her undying favorite. And in the years that followed, tennis would only further solidify as Stammel’s top sport, as she began competing in tennis tournaments around the age of 10.

“When I started tournaments, everything seemed to matter more because I wanted to win,” Stammel said. 

Throughout middle and high school, Stammel continued to nurture her competitive spirit by cultivating her tennis skills, earning a five-star recruiting status and ultimately committing to play at Vanderbilt in January 2021. In doing so, Stammel both fulfilled her lifelong goal of playing collegiate tennis and followed in her mother’s footsteps, as Nicole Woods Stammel played tennis at SMU in the ‘90s. Vanderbilt was attractive to Stammel for academic and athletic reasons, as she strongly emphasizes how both aspects were important considerations for her. As such, in speaking specifically about the tennis program, Stammel gave several reasons for her commitment to Vanderbilt.

“They were a very established program, and I had heard a lot of good things about the coaches,” Stammel said. “And, I loved the girls on the team even though I didn’t get to meet them in person because of COVID. But, I had a few Zooms with the girls, and they seemed great.” 

Stammel’s love for her teammates and coaches is obvious, as she refers to her teammates as her “best friends” and earnestly praises head coach Aleke Tsoubanos and new assistant coaches Kelly Chen and Jack Findel-Hawkins. 

“[My teammates and I] get along so well. We’re all so different, but I think it works out really well because of that,” Stammel said. “We got two new assistant coaches, and I love them. That has been so great. Practices have been really amazing with them. And our head coach is super chill but also works hard, so she is a good balance.”

Stammel’s praise of coach Tsoubanos is reciprocated.

 “[Stammel] has a great balance of working hard in both the classroom and on the court, and her level of play in practice helps to push her teammates, which is something every coach wants to see in their student-athletes,” Tsoubanos said.

Overall, with her strong team connections and successful start to her college career, Stammel’s transition to playing collegiate tennis has been smooth. Stammel believes participating in numerous junior tennis tournaments the summer before college enabled her to get off to a strong start in her first fall season. However, after what she terms a few “hiccups” in last season’s spring play, Stammel was seeking to regain momentum in that previously mentioned, all-important match against Alexis Blokhina.

And regain momentum she did. In straight sets, Stammel won easily: 6-2, 6-3.

Of all the matches she played last season, Tsoubanos chose that victory as best exemplifying Stammel’s character. 

“[Stammel] played a familiar opponent in Alexis Blokhina and knew what she needed to do tactically to win, but also recognized the importance of being great mentally and keeping great court demeanor. She was fearless and displayed such disciplined tennis,” Tsoubanos said.

It is no coincidence that this match is also the one Stammel is most proud of.

“I kind of was able to push [the two losses] aside and win straightforward against a really good player,” Stammel said. “I was really proud of myself with how I handled that because I was not feeling my best. I was not playing my best.”

Stammel recognizes that in a tournament consisting of the top teams in the country, charging back after a two-match skid is no easy feat. 

“It’s hard because we’re constantly going from match to match to match and every single person you play is really good,” Stammel said. “So, it’s not like, you lose to someone good and then you get a break and get to beat someone easy next. It’s [instead] like you’re playing another girl the same level or better.”

In overcoming the inherent difficulty of playing at an elite level of tennis, Stammel tries to focus only on what she can work on, maintaining a positive attitude and enjoying the fun that college tennis offers. And, after recapturing the sweet taste of victory after a few bitter defeats, Stammel had a phenomenal run. After the match against Blokhina, Stammel went on a six-match win streak in singles play, picking up an SEC Freshman of the Week accolade. Her first year also saw her excel in the classroom, as she made the 2022-2023 First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll. 

She finished the tennis season with a record of 30-13 in singles and 22-12 in doubles, which earned her 2023 SEC All-Freshman Team honors. In a statement on Stammel’s freshman season, Tsoubanos praised the Dallas native’s performance.

“Towards the end of the spring she was playing No. 2 and 3 in singles for us against some of the toughest competition in the SEC and did a phenomenal job partnering with Anessa Lee in doubles as well,” Tsoubanos said. “For anyone to step into that role here is not easy; Bridget being able to do that as a freshman was really impressive.”

An injury at the end of last season forced Stammel to take a break from tennis over much of the summer. However, while Stammel’s preparation for her sophomore year may have been very different from that of her spectacular freshman season, Stammel is feeling good.

“It was really nice to have that relaxing break,” Stammel said. “This summer was really different. I only played one tournament, but I still feel really good and really prepared for this season, and in a way, a little bit better. I feel less burned out.”

Before Stammel’s sophomore season started, it was important for Tsoubanos to address with Stammel the coaching staff’s belief in her, while also emphasizing the additional growth that is possible.

“[It was important for Stammel to be] able to put freshman year behind her while learning the lessons from some of her tougher matches her first year. Working on developing some heavier shots and maintaining composure in the ups and downs of competition,” Tsoubanos said.

So far, Stammel is off to a good start in her sophomore fall season. In the Kitty Harrison Invitational, Stammel, ranked No. 67, won three matches before falling to No. 19 ranked Carson Tangulig in the final. A week later on her home court in the June Stewart Invitational, Stammel won her two singles matches. Most recently, in the ITA All-American Championship, Stammel picked up two wins in singles play before finishing with a narrow loss to No. 110 Sophie Abrams.

When asked about what she anticipates seeing from Stammel in the future, coach Tsoubanos gave her hopes that Stammel will become a leader on the team and will continue to grow more confident in her play. Additionally, Tsoubanos mentioned that she and the rest of the coaching staff are greatly anticipating some homemade baked goods from Stammel, as according to Tsoubanos, Stammel is quite the foodie.

Going forward, Stammel has two goals—one for herself and one for the team.  For her own part, the sophomore hopes to reach the individual NCAA Tournament, and as for the team, she’d like to see Vanderbilt make the top eight and eventually the final four in the NCAA Tournament. Stammel’s goal of reaching the individual tournament is one that is completely in line with Tsoubanos’s confidence in Stammel’s prospects. 

“Bridget has the skillset to become one of the best players in the country. She can become an All-American in both singles and doubles the way she is working to improve her game,” Tsoubanos said.

As far as playing tennis professionally, Stammel explains that while doing so has been a longtime dream, she is committed to completing four years of college first. As such, she plans on evaluating her development as a player during her senior year to then determine if she wants to try the pro tour.

Nonetheless, Stammel is a talented player with a bright blue sky of possibility on her horizon. Armed with a positive mindset and an elite backhand, Stammel is capable of shutting down anyone trying to rain on her parade.

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About the Contributors
Katelyn Rowan
Katelyn Rowan, Staff Writer
Katelyn Rowan (‘27) is planning to major in English and history in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her watching football, baseball or film adaptations of Jane Austen books, which she also rereads whenever she gets the chance. You can reach her at [email protected].
Ophelia Lu
Ophelia Lu, Deputy Photography Editor
Ophelia Lu (’26) is from Los Angeles and is double majoring in biomedical and electrical engineering in the School of Engineering. She previously served as a staff photographer. When not covering events and sports games for The Hustler, you can find her listening to a lot of music, studying at Starbucks or lying on Alumni lawn. She can be reached at [email protected].
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