The Rainbow Wahine tennis team heads into this season with high expectations. After finishing 2019 in a bittersweet moment losing to Long Beach State for the Big West Conference title, the ladies head into 2020 with goals of taking the program to the next level.
“My seniors really do a great job as far as making sure that freshmen or incoming students really understand the culture we’re always trying to build and making sure the most important thing is playing for each other and the university and for the state of Hawai‘i,” head coach Jun Hernandez said.
The Rainbow Wahine are looking to build off a 101 overall record and 5-2 conference record season. Returning for the ‘Bows is three-time Big West Player of the Year and 2019 All-American Petra Melounova. She finished last season with a 15-5 overall record and a 13-2 record on the No. 1 court. Melounova became the first tennis player from the University of Hawai‘i to garner All-American honors after advancing to the sweet 16 in the NCAA Championships last season.
“She’s (Petra) very feisty on the court,” Hernandez said of his senior leader. “She competes really well and she’s a very smart player. Even with the injuries and stuff, she will find a way to win. Especially during the season, she really loved playing for the team so no matter how hurt she is, she’ll find a way to make it work.”
Melounova is not the only standout on the roster this season, as the Rainbow Wahine have a pair of junior transfers that came in the fall to add depth. Junior transfers Bojana Markovic and Satsuki Takamura both enter the season ranked in the ITA poll.
Markovic, who came in Fall 2019 as a transfer from the University of Texas, is ranked No. 91. The Serbia native recorded a 20-14 career singles record and an 18-20 career record in doubles.
Takamura, who hails from Saitama, Japan, comes to UH after playing one season at Pepperdine and is ranked No. 103 in singles. She is tied with Washington State’s Melissa Ates. During her time at Pepperdine, she helped the Waves win the 2019 West Coast Conference Championship and recorded a 10-7 mark in singles and 3-2 record in doubles.
Also leading the ‘Bows are seniors Michelle Pits and Nikola Dolakova. Pits finished last season with a 10-9 overall record while Dolakova finished 8-13.
As one of the seniors on the team, Pits said that she did not expect to be a leader, but college tennis taught her to help her teammates.
“I think we’re striving for a lot more than just a conference win, especially with the depth we’ve got,” Pits said. “But at the same time, it’s just focusing on our team and building everyone together especially because we have new people.”
Having more people on the roster helps with the depth, according to Hernandez.
“They’re going to get pushed,” he said. “They’ll be earning their spots. But they understand their role that they’re going to be pushing each other to be better, and what’s the best for the team, that’s the lineup for the day. And really, as you can see, the best teams in the nation have that.”
Hernandez commented that not only is the team talented on the court, they are also, “Great people, nice people to be around. So they really understand what they’re here for as far as being an athlete, as far as being a student and then also of course, the most special thing is being able to really bond closer with the people that you’re going to be working with.”