The preparation for the 2014 women’s tennis season came to a close with the season-opening loss against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday.
The team’s pre-season looked very similar to previous years, according to coach Rich Hills, as he said the team looks largely the same as in recent seasons.
“There’s not a lot of difference between this year and last year,” said Hills. “From that respect it’s a lot the same.”
The team’s lineup from position one through position six is very closely matched, making for a very capable team in all positions.
“The strong point of it is that we can play pretty much any of our players in any position,” said Hills. “Most teams will find the lower part of our ladder pretty tough. The tougher part of that is that most teams will find the top part of our ladder not so tough. Some of the issues are the same, but I think we are stronger and will be able to handle them better because we’ve got experience.”
Last season, while the team’s makeup was very similar to this season, a few struggles from last season appear to have been left in the past. According to Maika Adair, senior player, the team struggled a lot with injuries.
“We really struggled with doubles and with having healthy girls on the team,” said Adair. “We had seven girls, but a lot were injured. This year we brought on three other girls who are healthy and so our doubles teams are a lot stronger.”
Adding to the commonness of injury, the team was in the middle of the school-wide transition from the previous league, NAIA, to NCAA Division II. The transition took its toll on the team, according to Hope Penner, senior player, as they had to get used to the new league, new teams and increase in travel.
This year, however, the team seems much more comfortable competing at the new, higher level and are confident that they can really begin to establish themselves as a strong team in Division II.
“This year I think we’re well prepared to know what we’re up against and we know more of what to expect,” said Penner. “Three of our strong players on the team are seniors and so we’ve all grown together. We really know what it’s like to have leadership on the team and show our younger teammates how to play, step up and be competitive and win.”
Because the team is still in its first two years competing in the NCAA, they are not eligible for post-season, or to play in the PacWest conference championships, but they do have a chance to play in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) tournament, which Hills hopes to attend.
“I think it will be hard to,” Hills said. “Tennis is very regional and Southern California and Florida are the best areas, so we have a tough conference.”
The challenge, according to Hills, comes in knowing that the PacWest often contributes the top teams for nationals, meaning the team has to beat some of the top teams just to make it to regionals.
“I’d love to be in the top four in our conference, which would be very ambitious for us,” said Hills. “But that’s the goal, so that’s what we’ll work toward.”