Tennis at Winthrop has held a tradition of success for the better part of two decades. With over 20 conference titles between both the men’s and women’s teams combined, the 2016 women’s team has gotten off to one of the better starts in program history.
Coach Cid Carvalho agrees with that sentiment, calling this year’s team “one of the best teams that had a best start,” in his 28-year tenure at his alma mater.
The Eagle women sit at No. 53 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll posted on March 15, and put together an eight-match winning streak that included victories over then unbeaten East Tennessee State and No. 70 Xavier.
Carvalho mentioned that while there’s potential to move up in the rankings, the focus of the team is on what lies ahead as conference play draws closer.
“We stay focused on the process and take one match at a time,” he said after practice on Wednesday.
Two of the big contributors to Winthrop’s success are sophomore Mariana Humberg and freshman Lauren Proctor, who combine to make one of the Big South’s top-ranking duos with an 8-2 record so far this year.
Knowing one another, especially in the realm of doubles tennis, is extremely important in the mind of both players.
“With us being a team, a pair, we both have to be on the same page and kind of feed off each other,” said Proctor. “When one is down, it’s important for the other to pick us up.”
That synergy and trust is even more nurtured off the court, as the pair are actually roommates. Humberg said that she sees her roommate “quite a bit.”
“Waking up, going to sleep; we see each other when we eat. Normally, most of the time, the team eats together as well.”
Carvalho called Proctor, who grew up in Fort Mill before moving to Florida, “a great addition to the squad,” adding that she and Humberg complement each other well.
Humberg, who was last year’s Big South Freshman of the Year, is a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, adding to the international flavor of a roster that includes players from Australia and Serbia.
Carvalho mentioned that recruiting around the world is a big deal for Winthrop, and other mid-major schools because of the scarcity of college-level talent in the United States that is more likely to go to larger schools like Clemson, South Carolina or North Carolina.
“To recruit those players from those schools to come to Winthrop is very difficult unless you have a personal connection,” he said.
That said, he added that stretching the pool to an international level makes things easier and some of the bigger schools are beginning to do that now.
As for this year’s Winthrop team, the Eagles will be in Virginia over the weekend to play three matches in three days; first at Longwood on Friday, then a match at Liberty the next day and finally facing Radford on Sunday.
Carvalho said there isn’t a problem with tennis players competing that much in a short amount of time. Being on the road could make it a tiring endeavor, but one that they can surely manage. Plus, it’ll give Proctor and Humberg a little more time to get know each other better.