South Carolina female tennis coach Kevin Epley announced Wednesday that Allie Gretkowski, Sarah Hamner and Misa Malkin have signed National Letters of Intent to join Gamecocks. Gretkowski will apply for South Carolina in January, while Hamner and Malkin will join the program in the fall of 2021.
“We worked hard to get not only some of the best talent in the country, but also players who fit the Gamecock culture,” said Epley. “Allie Gretkowski, Sarah Hamner and Misa Malkin are tirelessly motivated to improve and will fit perfectly into our training environment. We are very fortunate to have them as Gamecocks.”
Gretkowski (Mt. Pleasant, SC) is named recruit # 1 in South Carolina by TennisRecruiting.net. Overall, Gretkowski is classified as the country’s number 12 potential customer by the service and is considered a top recruit. She was named South Carolina USTA Player of the Year in 2017 and won the doubles championship at the prestigious Eddie Herr ITF Championships in 2018. Gretkowski also won an International Tennis Federation doubles tournament in Atlanta in consecutive years (2018-2019) and was a doubles finalist in the 16s at the 2018 Orange Bowl, as well as the 2018 USTA Winter Nationals at the age of 18. She was a singles finalist at a J4 ITF event in Lexington, SC in November 2019 and was a semifinalist in a J3 earlier that year in San Jose, California. Its Universal Tennis Ranking shows it as the 32nd placed junior in the country and the 215 junior number in the world.
“Most people see Allie and immediately realize that she has a world-class backhand, which is true,” said Epley. “However, what really makes Allie special is her court awareness. Tactically, she is very astute and it really helps her doubles game too. This year, she has been working with one of the best coaches in the country and her serve and forehand. are making great progress as well. We hope Allie will contribute immediately and we hope to have her on board. “
Hamner (Boca Raton, Florida) is the 8th recruit in the country, according to TennisRecruiting.net. Hamner is seen as the second recruit in the Southeast and also as the second in Florida. A first-rate recruit, Hamner recently won a J4 tournament in Daytona Beach. Hamner won the doubles title and was a singles finalist in another J4 in Orlando as well and won 15 of his last 16 games and has been 38-6 in games since June. Earlier this year, she won the USTA / UTR Reel Tennis Open Circuit 3 by defeating four top recruits en route to the title. She also won the Casely Junior Open Championships in June, the Puhan Fall Classic in September and was a finalist in an open RTU event in July. Hamner also has a doubles title at the Eddie Herr ITF Championships, doing so in 2019, and she was a singles finalist at USTA Winter Nationals 2019 in the 18s, where she faced the current Gamecock, sophomore year Emma Shelton in the championship match. In 2018, Hamner won the setback in the 18s at the USTA Winter Nationals. According to his RTU, Hamner is No. 16 junior in the country and No. 116 junior in the world.
“Sarah surprised me immediately the first time I saw her play,” said Epley. “She has an ‘it’ factor that few players have; that little thing in the reserves that can push her through an immense amount of adversity. Her strokes were built by one of the best technical coaches in the country, and she is putting her tactical game together with another great coach in Florida. Sarah is a competitor who never says she’s going to die and one of the most motivated junior players I’ve ever seen. We expect great things from her in the future.
Malkin (Tucson, Arizona) was ranked 20th. Nationally recruits on the TennisRecruiting.net list in 2020. She spent the last four years ranked in the top 20 recruits, ranking 11th in 2017, No. 18 in 2018 and No. 16 in 2019. A top recruit like Gretkowski and Hamner, Malkin, also at one point in 2017, was the country’s TennisRPI champion. She won a bronze ball in the singles 16s at the USTA Billie Jean King National Championships 2018 by defeating two of the best juniors in the country and reached the quarterfinals of the Cancun 15K ITF tournament in November 2019. Malkin won the USTA Southwest Junior Player of the Year in 2019 and was the junior with the best ranking in the southwestern USTA for the 12s, 14s and 16s. Malkin is ranked No. 49 junior in the United States and No. 291 junior in the world according to his Universal Tennis Ranking.
“Misa is another workaholic who spends each morning in Tucson training with her father,” said Epley. “She is an incredible competitor who has been working hard this year to improve her physical strength and attack game. Misa is passionate about improvements and we are confident that her game will continue to grow rapidly here.”
Gretkowski, Hamner and Malkin join a program with a long tradition of excellence and a recent rise to even greater national prominence. South Carolina reached the NCAA quarterfinals in 2019 after winning its first SEC tournament title, while making 16 NCAA rounds in 2017 and 2018 as well. Gamecocks have a sequence of 25 consecutive NCAA appearances, tied for the longest eighth in the country, and have reached the NCAA quarterfinals three times, in addition to making nine trips to the round of 16. In addition, South Carolina ended the season with a top -25 rating 24 times.
Under coach Epley, the trio will train with one of the best university coaches in the country. Since coming to South Carolina in the summer of 2012, Epley has accumulated an overall record of 142-70, going from 64-33 at the Southeast Conference. In addition to winning the 2019 SEC tournament, Epley’s Gamecocks went 27-3 in the SEC’s regular season competition over the past three seasons and ended the year ranked in the country’s top 20 from 2016 to 2019. The 2019 team ended fifth, the highest in the program’s history. He also led South Carolina for three consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins in three consecutive years (2017-2019), the first in the program’s history. Epley was elected National Technician of the Year ITA 2019 and SEC Technician of the Year. He was also selected twice as the ITA Carolina Coach of the Year.