Sophomore Sophia Strickland.
With the postseason quickly approaching, the Hopkins women’s tennis team is buckling down for the home stretch of their regular season play. The team has caught fire in recent weeks and currently holds an 8-2 record in the month of April.
Sophomore Sophia Strickland has played a critical role in the team’s hot streak and has seemed unbeatable as of late. Last week Strickland went 3-0 in her singles matches and won both of her doubles matches with her partner, freshman Anjali Kashyap.
In the team’s April 18 matchup with the Franklin & Marshall College Diplomats, Strickland won her singles and doubles matches 6-1, 6-0 and 8-3, respectively. On April 21 she started the day winning a doubles match against the Ursinus College Bears 8-1. Later on, she emerged victorious in both of her matches against the Christopher Newport University Captains, going 6-1 in singles and 8-2 in doubles.
Strickland was named the Centennial Conference Women’s Tennis Player of the Week this Monday for her outstanding performances against the Diplomats, Bears and Captains. And this week she continued her winning ways against the Washington College Shorewomen, winning her singles match 7-6 (7-2), 6-1 and her doubles match 8-6.
Strickland recently spoke with The News-Letter to discuss her play as well as the team’s outlook during the start of the postseason.
The News-Letter: You were dominant in both your singles and doubles matches last week, winning every set by a convincing margin. What elements of your game allowed you to be so successful?
Sophia Strickland: I don’t know if there’s anything specific about my game that’s helped me win recently. Our team has worked really hard on fitness this year, which has paid off when we have back-to-back matches.
N-L: You played two matches on the 18th and three on the 21st. How are you able to maintain a high level of play during such a demanding slate of matches?
SS: I guess when you’re playing a lot of matches in a row, you have to focus on the one that’s in front of you first and not think too far ahead. You also have to prepare ahead in terms of schoolwork so you don’t get overwhelmed. Having a team there to cheer you on for every match helps a ton too.
N-L: How does your approach for a singles match compare to that of a doubles match? In addition, you have had great success this year playing alongside Anjali. How has your chemistry developed throughout the course of the season?
SS: Anjali and I as a doubles team have come a long way this season, both in our doubles skills and team chemistry. She brings a lot of energy and positivity to every match, which makes playing doubles with her really fun. Playing doubles is so different than playing singles because there’s another person who can support you and whose energy you can go off of. Anjali and I haven’t been playing together for very long, and I think we can only get better from here.
N-L: This year Hopkins looks to capture its 12th consecutive Centennial Conference Championship. Are you confident that this year’s team is capable of continuing this impressive streak?
SS: I am very confident in our team’s ability to take another Conference title this year. We are playing Swarthmore on Friday, so we haven’t faced every team yet. But we’ve been doing very well so far against the teams in our conference, so I think our chances are high.
N-L: Beyond the Centennial Conference, what are this team’s expectations for the postseason?
SS: The overall goal for the year is always to see how far we can make it in the NCAA tournament, which depends on a lot of factors. Our team has been working super hard this whole season, and with a smaller team every person has had to bring their all. But we are a super young team with no seniors this year and most of our starters are freshmen and sophomores, which is rare. I think we have a good shot at getting to the Elite Eight like we did last year.
N-L: How has the departure of so many upperclassmen that graduated from last year’s team affected the team this year? What has been your key to taking on and succeeding in such an integral role on the team as a sophomore?
SS: It was definitely a challenge at first because we were super close to all of those upperclassmen, and there were a lot of leaders in that senior class. It was an adjustment, but everyone has really stepped up in their own roles.
Strickland and her teammates will wrap up their regular season on Friday, April 27. They will host the Swarthmore College Garnet in a much anticipated matchup that will determine the Centennial Conference’s regular season champion.