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BOGACZYK: Turhan Taking Strong Season to the Finish Line

Derya Turhan
April 19, 2016

By JACK BOGACZYK
HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The days of college tennis have dwindled to a few for Derya Turhan. So, the Marshall junior doesn’t intend to sit back and take them from the baseline.

Turhan, the Herd’s No. 1 player for three seasons, graduates May 7, finishing her MU degree in psychology in only three years – while taking a 3.44 GPA into her final days on campus. Then she will return to her home in Bad Salzuflen, Germany.

“I’m going to miss Marshall a lot,” Turhan said Monday as the Herd prepared for the Conference USA Championships that open Thursday at Middle Tennessee. “I just loved playing for the Herd. It’s a different feeling because we don’t have this in Germany.

“We don’t have college tennis and when I came here, I didn’t know what to expect. Tennis is usually an individual sport, so it’s completely different here. You’re not playing for yourself; you’re playing for the team. And that’s exciting and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m going to miss it a lot, yes.”

Turhan takes the same aggressive attitude she’s developed on the court into the 14-team C-USA event, in which Marshall (10-10) is the No. 5 seed and faces 12th-seeded Florida Atlantic at 1 p.m. (ET) Thursday. Her game has changed, and with it her success.


 

 

In No. 1 singles this season, Turhan owns a 14-3 record (.824). The last Marshall player with a better winning percentage was current assistant coach Kellie Schmitt, who finished her senior season in 2009 at 21-4 (.840).

“It’s tough to lose her,” said Herd Coach John Mercer, wishing Turhan was returning in 2016-17 for her final season of eligibility. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a No. 1 player who has been as dominant as she has. It was really great this year that she’s been able to step it up a notch, become that type of player.”

Turhan began the spring portion of the 2015-16 season ranked No. 12 in singles in the ITA Atlantic Region. Besides her singles success, she’s also 11-6 at No. 1 doubles for the Herd, paired with either Rachael Morales or Anna Pomyatinskaya.

“I did 13 years of school in Germany,” the 23-year-old Turhan said, who was named to the seven-player C-USA All-Academic Team on Tuesday. “It’s usually 12 years but I had 13, so I had some transfer credits (14), and so I’m graduating early. And I really miss home. I really like to be around my family so that’s probably the main reason I want to go home.

“It is very hard to leave, hard to leave the team, the girls, and I love to play tennis. I think everyone knows I love to play tennis and I like competing, like to play for the Herd, but it’s emotional, it is.

“I’ll play league tennis in Germany, club matches. I’ll play some tournaments. I’ll have to see how much I’ll play, but I will keep playing … but it won’t be like this.”

Turhan takes a five-match singles win streak into the C-USA tourney, and she admits she will be playing with an urgency this week in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

“It’s close to the end, and I want to win every match,” she said. “I just don’t want to lose now. I want to play my best tennis because it’s probably the last time I’m going to compete like this, on this level and I just want to win every point I can for the Herd before I’m finished.

“I’m really excited about this (tournament). I talked to a friend today about how there are like four or five teams pretty much all on the same level. There’s not any one team that is way better than any other team, so I think anyone can win this tournament, if you show up, like we did against Old Dominion (a 5-2 Herd win last Saturday). We played pretty well … If we show up like that, we can win this.”

Turhan was 10-12 at No. 1 singles last season. As a freshman in 2014, she was 10-8 at no. 1 and 2-2 one spot lower. So, what’s made the difference in her rate of success?

“I think she’s definitely improved her hardcourt game,” Mercer said. “Derya grew up playing clay court tennis and her hardcourt game has really improved. When you go from clay to hard, it’s a lot more up in the courts, more aggressive, points are a lot shorter.

“It was kind of about having to get her out of that habit … It was about court positioning, and learning when to play more aggressive, when to play a little more flat with her groundstrokes, learning to take her backhand up the line at the right time.

“The shot selection, the footwork changes a little bit. It takes time and this is her third spring, and what we’ve been trying to get her to do, it’s finally become more natural for her to do it. As a result, you’re seeing better results on hard courts.”

Turhan said her improved play this season has opened even her eyes.

“I played much better this season, better than I expected this semester,” she said. “I’ve been probably more relaxed since this was going to be my last year. I just want to play the best I can.

“The difference is I think my forehand is much better this year. It was good last year, but this year I’m playing faster and I’m staying more on the court, so I’m taking away things from opponents, so it’s pretty good.”

Turhan said another aspect to her game – and that of her teammates – is that they have needed to play with what she called “a special focus” because Mercer’s team has only six players to play six singles and three doubles matches after freshman Jackie Carr from Arkansas left the program and MU following one semester.

“It’s actually kind of difficult for us because everyone knows each of us has to play every single match, singles and doubles,” Turhan said. “And everyone needs to focus because no one can get injured. You have to be careful on the court, off the court.

“Really, I think everyone has done a great job, trying to go to treatment, getting rest, staying fit, playing and practicing the right way, focusing. We need everyone to pay 100 percent attention for every single match. We’ve been able to do that.”

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Nationally ranked FIU and Rice, the top C-USA Tournament seeds, respectively, receive first-round byes into Friday’s quarterfinals. North Texas is seeded third, with ODU fourth.

Marshall has played four regular-season matches against league foes. Besides the 5-2 win over ODU last weekend at the on-campus Fox Tennis Center, the Herd fell, 4-3, to FIU and Rice at the Huntington Tennis Center in Barboursville and defeated 11th seed Charlotte, 5-2, at Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Mercer’s Herd has reached four C-USA title matches, falling to Tulsa in 2007, ’08 and ’10, and to Rice last season. The 2016 championship match is scheduled Sunday at 11 a.m. (ET).

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