UCF’s seniors hope for strong finish to careers
Published: Sunday, April 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 2, 2012 09:04
Partners on the court, roommates off the court.
Either way you look at it, the three seniors of the women’s tennis team are pretty much inseparable, and that’s where they find their strength.
It may seem strange that individual-sport athletes take pride in their relationships, but for Alexis Rodriguez, Andrea Yacaman and Taylor Dubins, the bond tennis created has outgrown the court.
“It’s been a great experience,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been with them since my freshman year and going through every season together, growing together, learning each other’s games and feeding off of each other.”
The trio has been playing together since 2008, when they started their freshman years with the program.
Yacaman and Dubins have tried using their connection as an advantage, pairing as doubles partners. The two hold an 11-9 record this year as partners, highlighted by an 8-3 victory over Jesse Grace and Caitlyn Williams, members of the 10th-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
“It’s a good combination because she sets up the point and I finish it off,” Dubins said. “We’re a good team together, and we’ve been playing together since my sophomore year.”
Yacaman may be inseparable with Dubins on the doubles court, but she and Rodriguez are so close, they decided to live together.
“Lex [Rodriguez] and I live together too, she’s one of my best friends on the team,” Yacaman said. “We are all really, really close together, and we all try to do everything together. We make sure we try to act as a team. Being the three seniors, we try to be leaders, but at the same time we’re really close to each other.”
With no freshmen on the team and an equal amount of sophomores, juniors and seniors, both Dubins and head coach Stephanie Nickitas acknowledged that the team is an older group that can lead itself.
“We encourage everybody to step up and be leaders,” Nickitas said. “Some are more vocal on the court, some are more vocal off the court and some lead by example a little bit more, whether it be in the weight room or in the classroom
“So we kind of have everybody step up.”
Nearing the finish line
With four more matches left before the Conference USA Tournament, the team will need to see that leadership as it hits the home stretch of the regular season.
“We are playing with some confidence right now, so we just want to get through the next matches and continue to do that,” Nickitas said.
Some of that confidence has been built through early-season tests against nationally ranked teams, as the Knights have faced eight of them this season.
Rodriguez admits that it is tough to be in one of the top-two singles positions against ranked opponents, facing off against some of the top players in the country, but she hopes the confidence she has built up trickles down to her teammates.
“It’s tough, especially with the teams we play,” Rodriguez said. “It takes a lot of confidence. … It helps being able to show the other girls that I can handle it and it lets them do work at their positions below so we can win together.”
The team is set to make the trip to Memphis for the C-USA Tournament, which begins April 19.
Nickitas hopes that her seniors can cap off their careers with a solid conference tournament.
“We’ve built a little bit of momentum, and we want to keep it,” Nickitas said. “We are going be looking to have tough battles with those [last four matches] and then get on to the conference tournament and hopefully do some damage there.”