Our Aussies had a weekend full of matches last weekend, with some matches being played at home and others hundreds of miles away from their university campus.
As the weather is beginning to warm up in the United States, many schools are choosing to play their matches outdoors. Most Division 1 colleges have both indoor and outdoor courts and it is a huge advantage to play outdoors against a team that is traveling from a state with a much cooler climate.
We have had Aussies Alex Bulte (Florida State) and Chase Furguson (previously at South Florida) come on the Play USA podcast and they said that playing other schools outdoors on their home campus can make a massive difference in the midst of the spring weather where it may be 30℃ in Florida while it is below 5℃ in another state such as South Carolina or Illinois.
Queenslander Casey Hoole, who we have been following this year, played in the ITA National Indoor Championships hosted by the University of Illinois in Chicago. The draw consisted of 16 teams that won their 4-team bracket at the ITA Kickoff Weekend which was held Jan 28-29.
The 8th ranked Gamecocks went into the tournament 8-0 after defeating 9th ranked Wake Forest five days earlier. The Gamecocks went down to Georgia 4-3, their first loss of the season but bounced back in style with a 4-0 win over 10th ranked Baylor and a huge 4-3 win over 12th ranked North Carolina.
Both teams were tied at 3-3 and Casey Hoole was in a third set to decide the win. Hoole held his nerve and served for the match at 5-2 as his opponent missed an inside-in forehand wide. Hoole fell to his knees as his team ran over to celebrate.
The Gamecocks will get ready to play their first South-Eastern Conference (SEC) match of the season against the University of Kentucky, who defeated Florida and the University of Southern California (USC) on route to the semifinals last weekend where they lost to eventual winners Texas Christian University (TCU).
On the women's side, we saw two Aussies on opposing teams; Vanderbilt played against the University of Central Florida (UCF) at home in Nashville. Geelong’s Amy Stevens who plays at Vanderbilt and was on The First Serve a couple of weeks ago for our college wrap up where she won her singles match over American Jaleesa Leslie 6-3, 7-6 (0) at #5 singles helping to get a 4-1 win on the day.
Playing for UCF, Melbourne’s Stefani Webb has entered her freshman year playing at #2 singles in the line-up. Webb recently competed in the Australian Open Junior Championships last month where she was given a Wildcard into the main draw and took out world number 668 and first seed Sarah Saito from Japan. Although going out in the second round of the juniors, we are excited to see what Stafani has to bring to college and hope to catch up with her over the season.
We also saw Sydney’s Catherine Aulia play in her college debut match on Tuesday. Playing for the University of Tennessee, the Volunteers defeated UCF 4-3 at home in Knoxville although Aulia went down in a tight three set battle. We are looking forward to chatting to Catherine who will be our featured guest on episode 2 of Play USA which will be released next month.
It was an exciting weekend for our Aussies at Tulsa where Kody Pearson won the clinching match 7-6(5), 7-6(4) over Nebraska’s Roni Hietaranta from Finland getting the win 4-3 for the Golden Hurricanes.
We spoke to Kody and his doubles partner Connor Di Marco where they were featured guests on The First Serve on Monday Night and gave us an insight into their college journey and an update on the season so far.
“We had a pretty disappointing match a couple of days ago against Arkansas,” said Pearson. “We bounced back and played against Nebraska in a tight dual match last night which we were lucky enough to get across the line”.
Tulsa will be back at the practice courts this week before jetting off to the west coast to play against San Diego and Pepperdine on Friday and Sunday respectively. “We’re actually planning on hitting tomorrow outdoors for the first time”, said Di Marco. “We’re leaving on Wednesday to go down to San Diego so that will give us a good couple of days to get used to the conditions there”.
After the Californian swing, the men’s side will travel to Memphis where we are planning to watch live and bring you all the action on the day.
That’s a wrap for this week. For more college action, be sure to follow us on our social media platforms where we post all of our college content and you can get a full college wrap up each week on the First Serve live radio show through the Sports Entertainment Network broadcast across Australia and New Zealand every Monday 8:00-10:00PM AEDT.