By Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern
See UGA women's varsity roster
Photos: Courtesy of UGA
How good are Tennis On Campus players? Well, good enough for two Georgia women to make the step-up to the big time.
Ranked by the Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association at No. 5 the country at this time, the UGA Bulldog women’s varsity were dealing with injuries and other circumstances that depleted its normally solid roster.
“I dreaded the call,” said president and captain Graham McNerney (pictured above). “I got the call from Annie (Marcinkowski). Then I called Stephanie (Grodecki) and she told me the same thing.” Both had been invited onto the varsity by head coach Jeff Wallace in early January.
As can be predicted, both Marcinkowski and Grodecki were prize picks. Graham described both players as a nemesis for opponents for different reasons.
“Annie is a very consistent player. She hits a forehand with a high bounce to her opponents. It’s very hard to play against someone who is always coming at you like that. … Some opponents had begged out during a set and asked for a sub,” McNerney said.
“Stephanie is a lefty with a great spin serve that’s very hard to return,” he added. “She’s very good at hitting cross-court. That makes her such a great doubles player.”
Both freshmen had dominated in their initial Tennis On Campus season. McNerney remembered only one defeat for both of the players this year. Neither player has seen action on the varsity team.
Wallace described the process of bringing on two walk-ons.
"Drake (Bernstein, assistant coach) and I looked at their USTA and TennisRecruiting.net rankings and saw what level of players they were," Wallace said. "We interviewed them to see if this would be the right fit for them and were pleased with their responses.
"They've certainly gotten better in the last two months.They fit in well in the team. It's about relationships with all the girls. They are getting used to the daily workouts in the weight room and training and they're getting in extra work in on their own to catch up and get into shape."
Wallace likes to have 10 to 11 players on the roster, even if some don't get a chance to play competitive matches.
Marcinkowski won a Georgia state championship in 2011 while playing on the first doubles court for Johns Creek High School. She was the team captain in her senior year and was a member of the National Honors Society, Science Olympiad, and 121 Reach Tutoring programs.
While the coach and the players have been welcoming, that hasn't softened the transistion for Marcinkowski. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," she said. "But, it's been a big difference (from Tennis On Campus). I wasn't in the best shape. ... It's a new level that I'm getting used to. These girls are the best in the country."
Grodecki attended Our Lady of Good Counsel high school in Olney, Md. and was named team MVP in her freshman and junior years. She missed her senior season due to a torn ACL. She won the doubles conference championships and finished as runner-up in singles action in her in her freshman and junior years.
Grodecki explained what happened when Wallace called. "I was just speechless. This has been my dream from when I could remember."
While she enjoyed playing on the club team, "there was something missing. I was thinking maybe I should transer so I could play more competitively. When I came to be on (the varsity), I knew this is where I wanted to be."
She also noted that it was tough to go from hitting once or twice a week to banging balls for at least two-plus hours a day.
McNerney said, “Everybody on the (TOC) team was absolutely excited for them. They’re both really nice and well liked.”
The president also has a strong resume himself. He was undefeated at line #1 doubles in three years at Walton High School in Marietta, Ga.
“I didn’t have a problem adding players to the A team. We moved up one player. We have a lot of depth. About 65 players will try out for our teams.” UGA fielded four teams at this championship, with the A team finishing third.
“We’ll never know how well we would do here if we had Annie and Stephanie,” he reflected.