Howard Womens Tennis Sweeps Honors as It Prepares for Tournament
WASHINGTON, D.C. - One of the pleasant surprises of the 2010 season has been the success of the Howard University women’s tennis team. Under the leadership of veteran head Coach Larry Strickland, the Lady Netters compiled a best ever 13-3 record, including a nine-match win streak. Howard posted an unblemished 5-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, giving them the top seed in the upcoming tournament, April 16-18 at the Millbrook Tennis Center in Raleigh, NC.
At first glance, one can surmise that the addition of Michelle Brown and Brittney Morgan is the key. Brown is a sophomore transfer from Georgetown University and Morgan is a freshman from Beverly Hills, CA.
Brown, who has alternated between No. 1 and 2 singles, had a 14-2 slate on the season and Morgan, who also alternated between No. 1 and 2, had a 13-2 record. For their accomplishments, Brown has been named the MEAC Player of the Year, and Morgan the MEAC Rookie of the Year.
Add to that, the coaching of Strickland, who is in his 25th season and it is easy to understand the turnaround from 6-11 last season. But Strickland says that it is not all that complicated.
“A lot of it is pure luck,” says Strickland, who has been named the MEAC Coach of the Year. “Obviously getting two quality players like Michelle and Brittney has made a huge difference. We actually recruited Michelle heavily out of high school but she decided to go someplace else. Then she decided to transfer here.”
“Brittney was under the radar and we were able to get her at the last minute. We did not actually sign her until late May.”
He continued, “When you are fortunate to have two top players come in at the same time, it helps you in so many ways. The players who were at the top two positions move down but at the same time they bring up the quality of play and your depth. They are seasoned after having gone through the wars at the top positions, so now they feel less pressure and they are able to gain confidence and in tennis, that is what it is all about.”
A biology major from Los Angeles, CA, Brown says that there seemed to be a feeling early on that this could be a special season.
“I remember us setting some high goals for ourselves when the season began,” said Brown. “We jelled early and we all made a point to encourage each other. It is flattering to receive the award but the focus now is on winning the tournament.”
Added Morgan, “At first I did not know what to expect coming in as a freshman. But there was a togetherness and a confidence that has carried us through the season. The award is nice but we are looking at the bigger picture which is winning the MEAC tournament.”
Strickland, who has guided the women’s teams to four MEAC tennis titles and several outstanding coach accolades, adds that the group of sophomore Ashley Moore (Number 3), junior Alyssa Works (Number 4), senior Michele Gee (Number 5) and sophomore Anne Akhimien (Number 6) all worked very hard in the offseason and that it is now paying off.
The Lady Netters will be looking to win the highly competitive tournament by using the same formula that was used to win the regular season title.
“The key for us is to remain confident,” says Strickland, who was last voted the Coach of the Year back in 1995. “When you win eight or nine in a row, you can’t help but feel confident.”
The women open play on Friday against North Carolina A&T, the Number 4 seed at 8:30 am while the Howard men, who finished as the Number 2 seed, will take on Bethune-Cookman University, also at 8:30 a.m. The women’s finals are Sunday, April 18 at 9 a.m. and the men will square off at 11:30 a.m.