Looking to build off a season where it played its “toughest schedule in program history,” head coach Shelley Jaudon said last year, JMU women’s tennis’ 2023 campaign is fully underway and off to a 2-1 start.
After falling to No. 9 U.Va. 6-1 in the season opener Jan. 20, the Dukes followed up with back-to-back wins at home over George Washington and Richmond. Across these two matches, which it won 7-0 and 6-1 respectively, JMU has only dropped one court across doubles and singles matches.
Jaudon said she’s impressed with JMU’s results so far and that the team is slowly but surely finding itself as it encounters the rest of its schedule.
“I’m really pleased with the start,” Jaudon said. “I think we’ve had a really good emphasis and focus on who we are as competitors and trying to identify that with each other.”
One of those competitors is redshirt senior Kylie Moulin, who dominated with a 20-5 record in 2021-22, including an 11-2 mark in dual play. After playing mostly No. 2 singles last season, Moulin has played all three matches at No. 1 singles this spring, winning her last two matches at the spot.
On top of her tennis accomplishments — including All-CAA Second Team singles and VaSID Second Team All-State singles — Moulin was named as the Casey Carter JMU Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Moulin said the good start to the season has been boosted in part by the difficulty of last year’s schedule. Despite the Dukes finishing 9-11 in 2022, Moulin said it was best for the team’s long-term success.
“I think it’s prepared us immensely,”Moulin said. “Last year was definitely the toughest we’ve had. At the beginning, it seemed daunting. Now going into this season, we’ve realized we faced it, we faced the tougher teams in tougher spots, so we know that we can do it.”
Last year’s schedule saw the Dukes travel to away matches for a weekend and sometimes two weekends consecutively. This year, however, pits JMU against a longer road schedule.
After their 6-1 win over the Spiders on Jan. 29, the Dukes now embark on an almost two-month road trip — they won’t play at home again until March 25 against Southern Miss.
JMU will travel to five different states — Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania — before Sun Belt play begins March 10, when it travels to the Lone Star State for its conference opener at Texas State.
On this extensive road trip, Jaudon said she wants to see the team bring the same energy to each match — no matter where it is or who it’s against.
“The biggest thing I’m looking for is that I want to maintain what I call our competitive character,” Jaudon said. “Are we the same team no matter where we’re playing, or who’s across the net? That’s been a focus of ours.”
Maintaining competitiveness on this road trip extends over nine matches, starting Feb. 3 at Ball State. While this may seem like an undesirable stretch of matches, Moulin said, the team feels comfortable on the road and their liveliness makes road trips feel like they’re still in Harrisonburg.
“We’re such an energetic, charismatic team,” Moulin said. “Even when we’re away, we create such good energy that it feels like a home match sometimes.”
One player who’s helped to bring the energy is redshirt senior Daniela Voloh. She’s been a contributing starter since 2018-19, when the Dukes won their first of two CAA titles in the last five seasons.
Fast forward to her senior season, and Voloh’s become a leader of the team. She’s started the 2023 season 2-1 in both singles and doubles matches, including a come-from-behind 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 win against Richmond freshman Elizabeth Novak.
Voloh’s also had success in doubles with her new partner, freshman Daria Munteanu. Going back to fall tournaments, the duo is 8-2 together, including a 3-0 sweep in the Liberty Hidden Dual from Oct.1-2.
Voloh said she’s enjoyed partnering up with a freshman because of the mentor-like role she’s taken on. Being able to teach someone the ins-and-outs of college tennis has made her feel like she’s leaving a legacy at JMU, she said.
“It’s been fun as a senior playing with a freshman, teaching her not just doubles but college tennis,” Voloh said. “So, I really feel like I’m giving back to the program by helping out the young ones.”
In three dual matches this season at No. 2 doubles, Voloh and Munteanu are 2-1, having won against George Washington and Richmond. Voloh is coming off a 2022 season in which she earned All-CAA Third Team doubles honors with now-graduated Michelle Los Arcos (2018-22).
As the Dukes embark on the rest of 2023, Voloh said the start has given them optimism as they try to resurrect 2021’s success.
“It’s been awesome to have such a great start all around and how we’re maintaining that competitive energy from the get go,” Voloh said. “I’m really excited to see how it continues for the rest of the season.”