Due to injuries last season, the Lady Vols struggled at times to field more than one doubles tennis team. This season, they have a pair that expects to compete for a national championship.
Fresh off of a successful run last weekend at the ITA All-American Championships, junior Brynn Boren and senior Kata Szekely are feeling confident about the upcoming season.
The star-studded field at the tournament, held this season in Los Angeles, was shaken up when Tennessee's 34th-ranked pair defeated No. 15 Lauren Embree and Danielle Collins of Florida in the first round, No. 2 Courtney Dolehide and Pamela Montez of UCLA in the second round and No. 5 Emina Bektas and Brook Bolender of Michigan in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 19 Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar of Duke in the main draw semifinals.
While on paper the matches appeared to be upsets, Boren wasn't surprised by her success.
"Both of our resumes show what we're capable of," Boren said. "I don't really find them upsets. Kata got to the semifinals of NCAAs in doubles last year and I was at one point ranked No. 2 in the country with my partner Sarah (Toti) until she tore her ACL and MCL. As a freshman, I went to NCAAs through doubles."
Last season, Boren and Szekely were forced to play at higher positions in the lineup because of various injuries. In spite of playing up, both players still succeeded as Boren was named to the All-SEC 1st team and Szekely joined her on the 2nd team, but both feel their own individual talent is furthered by a healthy friendship off the court with each other.
"If you want to have good chemistry on the court, you have to get along off the court, too," Szekely said. "We already knew our game styles because she's been here for three years now. We always knew we could play well with each other; we just have to work on it. We're friends off the court, too, and that really helps on the court."
While injuries forced Tennessee to play with fewer than a full squad last season, they are back to full strength with a team that features two freshmen and four sophomores this season. Boren and Szekely are excited about the prospects of playing with a full roster behind them.
"It's weird practicing with a full eight or nine people out there, but it's nice," Boren said. "This team is a young team, but we're very talented. We could go far. Even though it's a young team, I see ourselves as a top 16 team, top 8 team."
Based upon their performance at the ITA All-American Championships, the pairing believes they will be contenders for a national championship in the spring.
"Honestly, I think the way we played last week — I'm not trying to sound cocky — but I think we can beat anyone in the country," Szekely said. "We should be definitely ranked higher than we are right now."