With tennis season for the PLNU Sea Lions officially underway, it’s been two contrasting stories thus far for the men’s and women’s teams. On the women’s side, after a dominating 9-0 victory over Westmont, they managed to come away with thrilling 5-4 victories over Cal State LA and Azusa Pacific. Their record currently stands at a perfect 3-0.
“The women’s team had another great comeback win. They’ve done a great job this year of coming together as a team and doing the things we’ve talked about,” said head coach Curt Wheeler, who has been in charge of both tennis programs since May 2014. “Putting effort out there every time, fighting as hard as they can, not worrying about the end process and taking it one point at a time. Good things happen when you do that. We have a great start, and I think we’re set up for a good year.”
Starting out with a three-game winning streak was anything but easy. On Saturday’s home matchup against Azusa Pacific, the women’s team fell behind 2-4 after the six singles matchups were played, leaving no room for error as they would have to sweep all three doubles matchups in order to win. Fortunately, with the heroic effort of all three pairs, the improbable victory became a reality.
“I’m pretty happy,” said junior Nikki Newell following the win. “My partner helped me out there in doubles. After singles it was tough. I believed in us and knew we could do it. It was easy to get down after singles, but we kept pushing and we persevered. We’re killing it.”
Newell’s partner, senior Regina von Koch, also expressed her excitement after the victory. “Everyone is so positive and has as lot of energy. We just keep fighting. We never give up. I love my partner, and we’re going to have a fun season in front of us.”
Coach Wheeler felt that the pair, who clinched the final matchup by a 9-7 margin, was a key asset to the team’s early success due to their leadership. “Regina is our captain; it’s her fourth year and she’s a clear leader on the team. Nikki is a leader as well… it’s her third year her. They play in our top positions most of the time. They do a great job of setting the tone mentally, what our attitude should be and team dynamic. They’ve definitely been our leaders on the women’s team.”
Unfortunately, for the men’s side it hasn’t been the same thus far. They dropped their opener in Westmont, 6-3 with two of their matchup losses occurring in doubles by close 9-7 margins. They are currently 0-3 after two tough home losses to UC San Diego and Azusa Pacific.
“Every year is a challenge because anytime a player leaves or a new player comes in, it changes the dynamic,” said coach Wheeler. “This year on the men’s team, we only returned three players, CJ, Jack and Grant. With five new guys, it’s about as fresh of a team as you can get in college tennis.”
The men’s team consists of four freshmen and four juniors, and so far there appears to be growing pains for most of them. Despite the 0-3 start, Wheeler is confident that they can turn their season around.