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Previewing the 2022 Women's Tennis Season

Jan 7, 2022

TEMPE, Ariz. —  When the Sun Devils welcome UC Davis and Grand Canyon to Tempe for the season opener on January 15, it will mark the start of Sheila McInerney's 38th season as the program's head coach.

And, it'll likely provide answers to questions the staff has wondered all fall: Who will play on court No. 1 this year? And, after graduating five seniors and three of the team's top singles players, who will step up and produce in their place?

In 2022, the Sun Devils have strength in numbers. McInerney feels her team is deep enough to play the part of a contender this spring, a feeling this program has grown accustomed to since their head coach's arrival in the fall of 1984.

"I think this year, we're deeper than most years," McInerney said. "There's very little difference between, at this point, our No. 1 and our No. 7. Our lineup could be anywhere. Even now, we're not even sure how we want to stack up our lineup.

"Our strength is our depth. I think that'll be helpful for us."

Last year's Sun Devils went 15-9 and 6-3 in conference play to return to the NCAA Tournament for a 33rd consecutive season.

But the Sun Devils 2022 roster hardly mirrors the one from a season ago, as the team graduated five players and lost one to the transfer portal. Ilze Hattingh, Sammi Hampton and Lauryn John-Baptiste, last year's top three singles players, respectively, closed their collegiate careers last spring.

Unlike last year, when safety and health precautions interrupted any semblance of normalcy, the Sun Devils were able to partake in a full, action-packed fall season this year. They ventured to Berkeley, Lubbock, San Diego, Ann Arbor, Charleston and finished in Tempe. Six tournaments, six cities, two months. And McInerney's team is better because of it.

"The fall is more of an individual season, get the kids that haven't played a lot over summer getting back going again, trying to establish doubles teams and things like that," she said. "Just to get them back into the competitive mode, so for us, we like to do a lot of our teaching in the fall."

The Sun Devils put a bow on their fall season when they hosted the three-day, seven-team Thunderbird Invitational in Tempe in early November. They were terrific all weekend. Domenika Turkovic went a perfect 6-0 in both singles and doubles.

"The fall is always interesting for us," associate head coach Matt Langley said. "We always have some different players playing in different events. But this year, everybody improved themselves."

The Sun Devils returned six players this season who were on last year's roster, which includes Cali Jankowski, Domenika Turkovic, Giulia Morlet, Marianna Argyrokastriti, Natasha Hill and Grace Koester.

Morlet and Argyrokastriti mostly operated out of the Nos. 4 and 5 slots in singles play, respectively, but will likely assume bigger roles this spring. The two combined to go 23-12 in singles as true freshmen, who thrived in the spring after no fall season.

Jankowski went 4-2 on court No. 6 and Turkovic tallied nine wins in 16 tries a year ago.


Both McInerney and Langley praised the team's energy in the fall season, a welcomed sign after losing a handful of major contributors. The team brought in two new faces in freshman Patricija Spaka and senior transfer Sedona Gallagher, who played the last three seasons at Washington.

Gallagher had a 56-16 singles record and a 50-13 doubles record and was twice named to the All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention team (2019, 2021). Gallagher, who comes with familiarity with the conference, bounced between court Nos. 2 and 3 last year.

Spaka impressed the staff throughout the fall season. Once ranked as high as 112 in the ITF Junior World Rankings, the Latvian was a singles finalist at the 16u European Championships and won two ITF Junior Singles Titles and eight Junior Doubles Titles.

"We're obviously really excited to have her on the team," Langley said. "She came in with a really established junior career. She was a European Champion singles finalist, which is really difficult to do, being one of the best players there as a junior. We're excited to see what Patricija can do this spring."

The combiniation of Spaka, a prized junior talent, and Gallagher, an established veteran, is the type of balance that can serve McInerney's group well this spring.

Both McInerney and Langley raved about the progress of Domenika Turkovic and the work she put in throughout the off-season. After a 6-0 showing at the Thunderbird Invitational, Turkovic is cementing herself into the starting lineup.

"She worked really, really hard," McInerney said. "She did a lot of individual hits with the coaches. I think she was really determined to have a good fall. Last year, she was playing sort of the six, seven role. She was in the lineup most of the time, but not all of the time, so I think she was really determined to go out in the fall and solidify herself in the starting lineup."

Who will be on court No. 1 on Jan. 15 when the Sun Devils begin their season versus UC Davis and Grand Canyon? It's hard to tell right now, simply because even McInerney has yet to come to that decision. The Sun Devils will rely on their depth this spring, and a case could be made for several players to slot into that top role.

It's very likely that McInerney plays musical chairs with the team's starting lineup in the early going. But, as she hinted at, it's a good problem to have, a sign that the Sun Devils' talent is evenly distributed throughout the entire program.

The Sun Devils will begin their 2022 campaign with the home doubleheader on January 15 and embark on a stretch that includes five consecutive home matches. They'll hit the road to Florida and Oklahoma before returning home for another five-match home streak in late February, early March.

Conference play will begin for the Sun Devils with a bout against Washington on March 4 in Tempe. Of their final 12 matches, 10 will be between Pac-12 schools. They'll put the finishing touches on the regular season when they host Arizona on April 16.

Under Sheila McInerney, the Sun Devils seem to make a trip to the NCAA Tournament an annual retreat. Should they get back to the postseason once again this year, it'll be their team depth and young energy that guides them there.

"Always, playing for Arizona State and our program, it has a lot of tradition and history with our program since Sheila has been here," Langley said. "The team has always been fantastic and all of the records since she's been here sort of speak for themselves. I think the expectation is, for us as a coaching staff and for the players, is when you come to Arizona State, the expectations are always high. It's a really good thing."

"I think it's always exciting to start the season," McInerney said. "The fall is more of an individual season, get the kids that haven't played a lot over summer getting back going again, trying to establish doubles teams and things like that … we like to do a lot of our teaching in the fall and then the spring is just fun. It's a competitive season, it's the team season. 

The kids really, really look forward to the spring and the team competition, so we're excited about this for sure."