FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Though the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic remain and have slowed the announcement, the No. 3 Nova Southeastern women’s tennis squad has officially released the 2021 schedule for the fifth year under head coach Doug Neagle. The Sharks schedule features nine regular-season matches, all in Sunshine State Conference play, with five dates at home.
“Our ladies couldn’t be more excited to compete again,” Neagle said. “It’s been a year since our last match and they are so ready. We have been working hard and preparing for a long time now. For them to officially see a schedule and know that they will finally compete against someone besides their teammates, they are pumped!”
For a very experienced shiver of Sharks that saw a 13-1 record before the 2020 slate was cut short, this season will open up on Tuesday, March 3 with a road match at Tampa. NSU heads back out onto the road for a key match in the conference and national standings at No. 9 Saint Leo on Saturday, March 6.
NSU will see its first match in the confines of the NSU Tennis Center at Grande Oaks on Saturday, March 13 with a 2:00 p.m. match against Rollins – home courts where the Sharks have gone 14-2 in the past two seasons. The Rollins tilt kicks off a four-match home stretch, followed by Embry-Riddle on March 20, No. 2 Lynn on March 24 and Eckerd on March 27.
NSU will take the road twice more before closing out the regular season, heading to Palm Beach Atlantic on March 31 and traveling to three-time defending National Champion and current No. 1 Barry on April 7. The Sharks close out the regular season with Senior Day against 18th-ranked Florida Southern on Saturday, April 17 at the NSU Tennis Center.
The Sunshine State Conference Championships will look different than past years, with the higher seed hosting the matches in each round, running April 21 and 24 across the conference. NCAA Regionals will be hosted on May 10-11 and the NCAA Championships are slated for May 18-22.
The Sharks team loses a pair from last year’s squad, with All-American doubles senior Sarah Wardenburg graduating and Tingting Pei unable to return for 2021. However, leading the way will be 2020 ITA All-Americans Natalie Espinal (singles and doubles) and Karolina Snita (singles) – with Espinal retaining her No. 4 ranking from last season. Espinal teamed with Wardenburg to earn the No. 1 national doubles ranking last year.
Espinal finished the season with a 7-2 record, including a 2-1 mark against ranked opposition – and went 8-1 in doubles play. A 2020 mid-year transfer, Snita reeled off an 11-0 record at No. 2 and No. 1 singles, including a 1-0 mark against nationally-ranked opponents and 2-0 versus regionally-ranked foes. With partner Diane Follin Arbelet, she as 9-2 in doubles. Not to be overlooked in her own right, Follin-Arbelet was 26-6 in the past two seasons, including a 7-0 mark last year. Senior Daniela Obando gets another shot at her final campaign, entering the season with a 77.1 win percentage, 35-10 singles record and 39-12 doubles mark and a No. 38 national ranking after a 6-2 mark a year ago. Boasting a deep roster, the Sharks will also see the return of junior Chantal Nosievici, who tied the program singles wins record in 2019 with a 21-3 record – sitting out last season due to injury. In addition, sophomore Celia Montero Estevan returns after a team-leading debut record of 12-1.
The Sunshine State Conference remains the most dominant league in the nation, with Barry, Lynn and NSU taking up the top three national slots, along with Saint Leo at ninth and Florida Southern at 18th.
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