Epley Signs Three to National Letters of Intent
Allie Gretkowski, Sarah Hamner, Misa Malkin Set to Join Gamecocks
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina women’s tennis head coach Kevin Epley announced Wednesday that Allie Gretkowski, Sarah Hamner and Misa Malkin have signed National Letters of Intent to join the Gamecocks. Gretkowski will enroll at South Carolina in January, while Hamner and Malkin will join the program in fall 2021.
“We worked hard to get not only some of the best talent in the nation but also players who will fit the Gamecock culture,” Epley said. “Allie Gretkowski, Sarah Hamner and Misa Malkin are relentlessly motivated to improve and will fit seamlessly into our training environment. We feel very fortunate to have them signing on as Gamecocks.”
Gretkowski (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.) is regarded as the No. 1 recruit in South Carolina by TennisRecruiting.net. Overall, Gretkowski is rated as the No. 12 prospect in the nation by the service and considered a blue-chip recruit. She was named the 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 tournament doubles championship 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 in the 18s. She was a singles finalist at a J4 ITF event in Lexington, S.C., in November 2019 and was a semifinalist at a J3 earlier that year in San Jose, Calif. Her Universal Tennis Ranking has her as the 32nd-ranked junior in the country and the No. 215 junior in the world.
“Most people see Allie and immediately notice she has a world-class backhand, which is true,” Epley said. “However, what really makes Allie special is her court awareness. Tactically, she is very astute and this really helps her doubles game as well. This year, she has been working with one of the best coaches in the nation and her serve and forehand are making big strides as well. We expect Allie to contribute immediately and look forward to getting her on board.”
Hamner (Boca Raton, Fla.) is the No. 8 recruit in the nation according to TennisRecruiting.net. Hamner is viewed as the No. 2 recruit in the southeast and No. 2 in Florida as well. A blue-chip recruit, Hamner recently won a J4 tournament in Daytona Beach. Hamner won the doubles title and was a singles finalist at another J4 in Orlando as well and has won 15 of her last 16 matches and is 38-6 in matches since June. Earlier this year, she won the USTA/UTR Reel Tennis Open Circuit 3 by downing four blue-chip 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 at an open UTR 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 the 2019 USTA Winter Nationals in the 18s where she faced current Gamecock sophomore Emma Shelton in the championship match. In 2018, Hamner won the backdraw in the 18s at the USTA Winter Nationals. According to her UTR, Hamner is the No. 16 junior in the country and the No. 116 junior in the world.
“Sarah immediately struck me the first time I saw her play,” Epley said. “She has an ‘it’ factor that very few players have; that little something 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 nation, and she is putting together her tactical game with another great coach down in Florida. Sarah is a never-say-die competitor and one of the most driven junior players I have ever seen. We expect great things from her in the future.”
Malkin (Tucson, Ariz.) has been ranked as high as the No. 20 recruit nationally on the TennisRecruiting.net list in 2020. She has spent the past four years ranked among the top-20 recruits, sitting at No. 11 in 2017, No. 18 in 2018 and No. 16 in 2019. A blue-chip recruit like Gretkowski and Hamner, Malkin also at one point in 2017 held the top TennisRPI in the nation. She earned a bronze ball in the 16s singles at the 2018 USTA Billie Jean King National Championships by defeating two of the top juniors in the country and reached the quarterfinals of the Cancun 15K ITF Tournament in November 2019. Malkin earned USTA Southwest Junior Player of the Year in 2019 and was the top-ranked junior in the USTA Southwest for the 12s, 14s and 16s. Malkin is ranked as the No. 49 junior in the United States and No. 291 junior in the world according to her Universal Tennis Ranking.
“Misa is another workaholic who spends each of her early mornings in Tucson training with her dad,” Epley said. “She is an incredible competitor who has been working hard this year to improve her physical strength and attacking game. Misa is passionate about improvement, and we feel confident that her game will continue to grow quickly here.”
Gretkowski, Hamner and Malkin join a program with a longtime 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 NCAA round of 16 appearances in 2017 and 2018 as well. The Gamecocks have a streak of 25 consecutive NCAA appearances, tied for the eighth longest in the nation, and have reached the NCAA quarterfinals three times while also making nine trips to the round of 16. Additionally, South Carolina has finished the season with a top-25 ranking 24 times.
Under coach Epley, the trio will be training under one of the top collegiate coaches in the nation. Since coming to South Carolina in summer 2012, Epley has amassed a 136-66 overall record while going 62-33 in the Southeastern Conference. In addition to winning the 2019 SEC Tournament, Epley’s Gamecocks have gone 27-3 in SEC regular-season competition the past three seasons and finished the year ranked among the nation’s top 20 from 2016 to 2019. The 2019 squad finished No. 5, the highest in the history of the program. He also guided South Carolina to three consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins three years in a row (2017-2019), a first in program history. Epley was named the 2019 ITA National Coach of the Year and SEC Coach of the Year. He has also been selected as the ITA Carolina Region Coach of the Year twice.