After two years of playing alongside Michelle DaCosta, junior Kara Delicata of the Michigan women’s tennis team is in search of a new doubles partner.
Delicata and DaCosta enjoyed great success last year, boasting an impressive 25-11 doubles record. But with DaCosta’s graduation and departure from the team, a new lineup will have to be formed. Delicata is currently paired with senior teammate Nina Yaftali.
“Nina and I have no match experience together,” Delicata said. “It’s a new experience (playing with her).”
Despite their lack of on-court familiarity with one another, the duo has high expectations, receiving a preseason ranking of 30th nationally.
Last season, Yaftali led the Wolverines in overall singles victories with 24, while Delicata did the same in doubles.
“I was really surprised (when I found I was paired with Kara) because I don’t have much doubles experience,” Yaftali said. “I can learn so much from her.”
Despite their high ranking, the tandem of Delicata and Yaftali is still no more than an experiment.
“It remains to be seen (whether or not the two will play together during the season),” 22-year veteran coach Bitsy Ritt said.
The fall and winter months will be critical for Delicata and Yaftali since they will have a chance to get used to one another’s playing styles and develop chemistry. Training 20 hours per week, the pair will have plenty of time to familiarize themselves with one another. The two also understand the significance of being in tune with one another away from the court.
“Being able to be friends off the court is so important, and Nina and I are pretty close,” Delicata said.
Although their doubles partnership is not set in stone yet, the two are motivated to find success both now and during the regular season, which kicks off in January.
“The offseason is a chance to prove yourself as an individual,” Yaftali said. “During the season, there is a transition – it becomes less about you and 100 percent about the team.”
Aside from the unsettled No. 1 doubles position, there is the question of leadership for the Wolverines. Not only did they lose captain Michelle DaCosta from last year’s squad, but they also lost senior co-captain Leanne Rutherford. The void these two standouts left creates a big opportunity for current players, such as Delicata and Yaftali, to step up and steer the tennis program in the right direction.
“As a senior, I need to lead,” Yaftali said.
Delicata echoed similar sentiments. “It’s important for all upperclassmen to show a leadership role,” she said.
Delicata and Yaftali will have an opportunity to mesh as a pair this weekend when they head California for the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships. While they are gone, five of the nine members of the women’s tennis team will be in action in Ann Arbor where the team will host the Wolverine Invitational at the Varisty Tennis Center.