Boston College women’s tennis has been coached by Nigel Bentley since 1999. Bentley had not guided one of his teams to the NCAA Tournament during his two decades with the team—until now. On the back of a 16-10 season—with a 5-9 mark in conference play—the Eagles clinched their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1997. BC will travel to Lawrence, Kan., to face No. 24 Florida on Friday, May 3 at 11 a.m.
During the latter portion of the season, Slam.Tennis pegged BC as one of the last four teams to clinch a tournament berth, and that came to fruition on Monday night. It seemed that the Eagles’ win over Louisville in the first round of the ACC Tournament and their valiant effort against No. 22 Wake Forest in the following round served as compelling evidence to the NCAA selection committee that BC deserved to compete in the dance.
It was clear from the onset that this Eagles team was different from years past. To kick off the season, BC rattled off nine straight wins. Predictably, the Eagles slowed down once they ventured into the thick of the conference slate, and this culminated in a five-game losing streak that spanned most of February. BC then won six of eight matches before dropping the final two contests of the year to Notre Dame and Duke. While the Eagles certainly experienced some adversity, they ended up persevering and securing the program’s highest win total in the last 20 years.
Highlights for the Eagles on their journey to the dance include a perfect 10-0 record in non-conference play, as well as upsets over then-No. 10 Syracuse—the program’s first-ever top-10 victory—and then-No. 27 Miami in a pivotal late season matchup. And even during its loss to No. 2 North Carolina, BC achieved program milestones for its highest ranked wins in singles play. Kylie Wilcox initially set the record with a three-set victory over No. 6 Sara Daavettila, and Yufei Long broke the record once more with a three-set win of her own, this one over No. 2 Makenna Jones.
The Eagles have reached this stage, thanks to a combination of veteran leadership and a fresh crop of newcomers. Senior captain Jackie Urbinati and junior Wilcox have been consistent presences in both singles and doubles. In fact, during the final stretch of the season, the duo rose to achieve a No. 56 ranking in doubles. Meanwhile, Iowa transfer Long and freshman Laura Lopez have clinched important victories all season long. Lopez’s wins at No. 6 singles secured the upsets in 4-3 decisions over Syracuse and Miami. For their accomplishments on the court, Long and Wilcox earned All-ACC Third Team honors last week.
Natasha Irani, Elene Tsokilauri, and Dasha Possokhova have been core pieces in both BC’s singles and doubles lineup. Rounding out the roster are Micayla Casella, Marion Conklin, Loren Haukova, Reagan Posorske, and Maria Ross, who have all provided valuable depth amid the season.
BC’s first round NCAA Tournament opponent—Florida—presents itself as a formidable foe. The Gators have accumulated a 12-11 record, including a 7-6 mark in the loaded Southeastern Conference. Florida has strung together wins against three top-25 opponents—Michigan, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. To further bolster their resume, the Gators have played incredibly close matches against some of the best teams in the country, narrowly falling to top-10 foes, such as South Carolina and Vanderbilt in 4-3 decisions.
Not only is BC’s tournament berth an enormous accomplishment in the present, it also bodes very well for the future. No matter the outcome of its matchup with Florida, BC is set up for success. As the lone senior on the roster, Urbinati will be the only player that will depart in the offseason. Already committed to BC in the fall is Hailey Wilcox, Kylie’s younger sister, who is a five-star recruit and slots in currently at No. 49 in her class. This season represents a breakthrough for the Eagles as well as one to build upon. With BC moving into the Margot Connell Recreation Center next season, a new era of women’s tennis could very well be ushered in.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor