The Arkansas women’s tennis team this season will be buoyed by an influx of new, young talent. After losing three seniors to graduation after last season, the Razorbacks will bring in five newcomers who will try to help the team get back to the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive season. The Razorbacks are bringing in a top recruiting class of four freshmen that was ranked No. 12 nationally.
In addition to the freshmen, one of those newcomers arrives in Fayetteville with a head start, already with a season of collegiate experience under her belt. Sarah McLean spent last season as one of the top players at Florida International University. She finished with an overall record of 12-12, and spent the season playing at the No. 1 and No. 2 position in doubles. A Miami, Florida native, she was the FSHAA Class 2A Individual Girls Singles champion in high school, and a top-50 national recruit.
McLean and the Razorbacks will host the Razorback Classic next weekend, with the tournament to held in Fayetteville on Oct. 5-7.
Why did you decide to transfer from Florida International?
It’s a better conference. The SEC is more challenging. The coaches, both Coach Hegarty and Audrey (Bordeleau) are really knowledgeable about the game and I feel like they can really help me be the best I can be as a player. The facilities were also a big part of it, just the motivation I got from seeing all the facilities and seeing the places where you can work out, and the athletes and trainers and people I would be surrounded by. That definitely helped make my decision a lot easier.
What have you enjoyed so far about being part of this team?
The girls. Everyone has a great work ethic and we all get along really well, and are all going after the same goals. Also, how positive our coaches are, you can really tell that they want the best for us.
What was your highlight from your first collegiate season?
Definitely playing in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Finals last year against North Texas. Unfortunately I didn’t get to finish the match because the other team had already clinched it, but it was definitely one of the best matches I played and there were a lot of people watching.
What is your mentality during the match?
My focus during the match is just to play smart. Keep the ball in the court and play aggressive tennis but also try and outlast my opponent. I try to be mentally tough and know that I’ve worked really hard for it and I can outlast anyone.
Your father was a tennis player in college at Florida State and now is a tennis teacher. What was that like for you growing up?
It was tough, but I think it was great. He definitely pushed me. He did a lot for me both on and off the court and I really appreciate it.
What are you looking forward to most about this season?
I think we’re going to have a really good season. I think we’re a young team, but we have a lot of talent. And I’m excited to go to the SEC Tournament at the end of the season and I think we’re going to do really good there.