For three Elon University women’s tennis players, the upcoming Southern Conference Women’s Tennis Championships, scheduled for April 16-19 in Chattanooga, Tenn., will mark the final time they take the court as members of the Phoenix.
The three seniors — Jordan Johnston, Frida Jansaker and Bryn Khoury — have been part of some of the best teams in program history, setting records and cementing themselves in the Elon history books.
During their careers, the team achieved its highest national ranking in program history, won its first match over an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) opponent and made its first appearance in the championship match of the SoCon Women’s Tennis Championships.
Johnston, named SoCon Freshman of the Year in 2011, became one of the most decorated tennis players in Elon’s history during her career as a Phoenix. Playing at No. 1 singles and doubles for the majority of her career, Johnston is a three-time, first-team All-SoCon honoree and has won the SoCon Player of the Week award three times.
Jansaker has earned All-SoCon team honors twice during her career at Elon and was named to the Academic All-SoCon team three times as well. As the team’s top doubles pair during their sophomore and junior seasons, Jansaker and Johnston climbed up the national rankings, reaching as high as No. 43. The duo ended their junior seasons with a record of 42-4 in doubles play, helping the Phoenix to a program-best 21 victories in 2013.
Khoury’s 2013 performance was another key component to the winningest season in program history. She went 22-4 at No. 4 singles for the Phoenix, good enough for second-team All-SoCon honors. In addition, Khoury has been named to the Academic All-SoCon team in each of her seasons as a Phoenix.
“[The seniors] have been fantastic,” Elon head coach Elizabeth Anderson said. “They have really done a lot for our team on and off the court. They are a great group and provide a lot of leadership to our team, and I can’t thank them enough for everything that they’ve given to the team day in and day out.”
This year’s squad has experienced tremendous highs and lows en route to a 12-8 record and six SoCon wins. After losing its first four matches to nationally ranked teams, the Phoenix reeled off eight straight victories to improve to 8-4. But the team struggled a bit as the season wore on, dropping four of its next six matches following its winning streak. The Phoenix bounced back, picking up two victories against the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Western Carolina University to close out SoCon play in preparation for the postseason.
Last season, the Phoenix came just short of winning the conference tournament. Trailing 3-0 against the College of Charleston, Elon stormed back to tie the match before eventually losing 4-3. To Jansaker, losing in the finals last season can only help the team heading into this year’s tournament.
“We have more experience this year,” Jansaker said. “Now we know that we’ve already been there, and it’s not as new anymore so I feel like we will handle that situation if we can get there.”
Knowing this year’s tournament will be her last, Johnston is ready to leave it all on the court.
“We’re fired up for this tournament — maybe more than ever — and we’re all just willing to put everything out there in our last hurrah,” Johnston said. “We’ve had some great times together, and win, lose or draw, we always have fun and enjoy it.”
Four years have all but passed for the three seniors and, while matches have been won and honors earned, the trio lacks one achievement that has been the goal the entire time: a SoCon Tournament championship.
“It’s been a great ride here at Elon,” Khoury said. “I definitely want to finish strong. I can’t imagine leaving this place, and I want to leave it on a good mark.”
With a SoCon record of 6-3, the Phoenix will be the No. 4 seed in the tournament and take on the No. 5 seed UNCG in its first match at 1 p.m. April 17. Elon defeated the Spartans in the only matchup between the two teams this season April 10, a 6-1 victory.
Awaiting the Phoenix in a potential quarterfinal match is the No. 1 seed Furman University. The Paladins, ranked No. 63 in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Associaton (ITA), own a perfect 9-0 SoCon record heading into the tournament, and narrowly defeated the Phoenix, 4-3, March 21, Elon’s only home loss of the season.
Elon also lost matches to the two other teams ranked ahead of them in the SoCon standings, Samford University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. These losses came on the same weekend, April 5-6, as Elon lost 5-2 and 4-3, respectively.