''Today Was Just Really Special''

''Today Was Just Really Special''

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It’s an experience Isabella Pfennig knows she can’t quite get anywhere else.

On Monday, the senior from Gauting, Germany was at the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium taking in the sights and sounds of one of the world’s premier tennis tournaments.

On Friday, she was back at the Miami Open, this time as a competitor with the rest of her Miami teammates.

The Hurricanes — ranked No. 21 in the nation — once again had the opportunity to compete in a dual match at the Miami Open, facing off against ACC foe Boston College after playing at the tournament in 2022.

Miami ultimately picked up a dominant 5-2 win over the Eagles on Friday to improve to 7-4 overall and 5-2 in conference play.

But as crucial as the victory was, it was the opportunity to play at such a memorable venue that Pfennig said she won’t be forgetting any time soon.

“Today was just really special. Just to study at Miami and you’re able to come and watch a tournament like the Miami Open is cool,” said Pfennig, who also competed with the Hurricanes at the Miami Open two years ago. “But to be able to come out and play on these courts is something you will always remember. I mean, this will for sure be one of the two top moments that I talk about with my college experience because it’s so special. No one has the chance to do this, besides us, so it’s just super cool.”

Playing on Court Two, Pfennig, No. 69 in the ITA Rankings, picked up a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) win over Boston College’s Natalie Eordekian.

And as the match continued, she and teammate Alexa Noel, who was playing on Court One, found themselves drawing a crowd that only grew larger as fans poured out of Stadium Court after Jannik Sinner quickly dispatched Daniil Medvedev in one of the Open’s men’s semifinal matches.

For the 16th-ranked Noel, the environment was reminiscent of some of her junior matches at the U.S. Open, the French Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

“I’m so glad my teammates, especially Bella, got to experience a little bit of that,” said Noel, who beat Boston College’s Marice Aguiar 6-4, 6-0 to pick up a point for the Hurricanes. “I don’t know how often they’ve had that in the past, but I know that I have and that’s something that I love and I think it’s something that really fuels me and almost makes me a better player. So, yeah, it was almost like having flashbacks to my junior career. I was like, ‘Oh my God, there’s so many people.’ I loved it. I loved it.”

Added Pfennig, “It’s funny, because when you’re on the court, you don’t always see [the stands] because they’re kind of high and you’re down lower and focused on your court. But I won my first set, and I was sitting on the bench with [head women’s tennis coach] Paige [Yaroshuk-Tews] and she was like, ‘That’s a big crowd right now.’ And I looked up and I was like ‘Oh, yeah.’ Obviously, it’s pretty cool to have more energy, more fans. That’s always what you want to play with.”

With their memorable match now behind them, the Hurricanes will set their sights on the remainder of their ACC schedule.

A match against Syracuse awaits Sunday back on Miami’s home courts at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center. After that, the Hurricanes will face NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia, and Virginia Tech before the ACC Championships begin April 17.

And the hope is the experience the Hurricanes gained at the Miami Open will benefit them in the weeks to come.

“You put a match like this in an environment like this, and it’s kind of a neutralizer, right? It takes away our home-court advantage,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “I think that’s a good thing for us to do to ourselves at this point in the season. Playing in this environment is a little distracting. So, it’s a neutralizer. It’s not like a home match and Boston College is a solid team. … This time of year, especially coming off a tough loss to Georgia Tech, it’s good for us. We needed a fun atmosphere and to get a ‘W’ under our belts. …

“This is incredible for our program. I think it says a lot about our girls and our program and obviously, the tournament director James Blake being a college tennis player himself, I’m sure he believes in this. I think it’s great for college tennis.”