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Health, confidence key 2010 turnaround

A year ago, the women’s tennis team endured a season filled with missed opportunities and sudden injuries.

It’s certainly not the same this season, however.

The Bulls are 10-5 and coming off a loss to No. 23 Virginia Commonwealth (16-4) on Sunday, but they’re ranked 16th in the country and are in line to receive an NCAA tournament bid.

“This team has a lot of heart,” said USF’s top singles player Irene Rehberger. “The secret to our success has been great team chemistry, and we are always supporting each other because everyone is so close.”

Rehberger, a junior from Spain, is ranked No. 35 in the country in singles with a 9-6 record, while also ranking 15th with senior Melissa Koning in doubles.

“This season has been really amazing for us so far when you compare it to last year,” said fifth-year coach Agustin Moreno, whose team finished 8-13 last season. “We haven’t had to deal with injuries the way we did last season, and our girls are making key shots in difficult situations … the main reasons for our success.”

Sophomore Janette Bejlkova, who missed all of last year with an ankle injury after going 17-0 during her freshman season, has an 8-6 record, including a 4-2 mark from the No. 3 singles position.

“It feels great to come back and help the team this year,” Bejlkova said. “My ankles are definitely not 100 percent, but I still feel that I have to play because I couldn’t at all last season. This year’s team doesn’t even compare to last year’s because we are much more motivated, and it shows with our ranking.”

But a little added talent helped, too. Newcomers Koning, a transfer from Auburn, and freshman Ecaterina Vasenina have added depth. Koning is 9-5 this season from the No. 2 singles spot, and Vasenina is 6-5, currently in the No. 4 position.

“We have put in a lot of hard work during practice, and everyone is staying fit, which has really paid off,” said Koning, a native of Australia.

While the Bulls are enjoying a strong turnaround, a tough stretch awaits, beginning with an away match at No. 6 Notre Dame (15-3) on Friday before the Big East tournament on April 22.

“I feel really good about our team going into this difficult portion of the schedule,” Moreno said. “But we are going to have to play some incredible tennis to beat our opponents from the Big East.”