Despite a rough 4–0 loss to UC San Diego on Monday, the 10–5 Sea Lions walked off their home court with a unique form of optimism, both in the spirit of Senior Day and in their opportunity to reach Regionals for the first time ever in the upcoming PacWest tournament.
“Today, I definitely felt emotional with the whole Senior Day celebration,” said senior Michelle Torres. “It just kind of hits you that you’re in your last matches ever. For most of us, we’ve been playing tennis our whole lives, so it’s just crazy that these four years flew by so fast. We have one more match leading up to conference, and now I think the focus is just enjoying it as much as you can…doing your best knowing it’s your last few matches, so you look back and have no regrets.”
Every season has its form of both highs and lows, but for women’s tennis, 2019 has introduced a unique form of turbulence: more than one-fourth of the team’s regular season schedule was canceled due to rainouts. These included the opening road and home games in early February against Redlands and Hawaii Pacific, respectively, an entire Bay Area trip in early March that included road matches against Sonoma State, Academy of Art and Holy Names, plus a home matchup against Portland in late March.
Head Coach Curt Wheeler described the team’s additional adversity with the weather as a “crazy year,” but there still were some positives to draw from it.
“From all the rain this season, I think we’re better off physically since we’re not as injured,” said senior Nicole Camaratta. “We do have Azusa as our last match, and it’s a tough match. That will be good for us going in [to the PacWest tournament]. We’re going to have to really step up our game.”
Regardless of the outcome of the final regular season game, Wheeler projects that the team will likely be the #5 seed in the PacWest tournament with a matchup against Sonoma State in the opening round—a team the Sea Lions were originally scheduled to play on Mar. 2 before the Bay Area trip was rained out. Wheeler emphasized key performers in singles matchups as a reason why the team has been able to make a postseason push despite the adversity.
“Camaratta at the #6 spot in singles has the best record on the team by at least a couple wins, so she’s been a huge strength in our lineup this year,” said Wheeler. “Shelby Groeneveld has also had a very strong year, and she’s playing at the #1 spot, which is a difficult spot to play. I believe she’s a couple matches over .500, and any time you’re at .500 or better at that #1 spot, that’s a good year. I would say Ellie Gamble has also been a contributor… she has a good record at the #3 spot in singles.”
Despite an 18–7 record in 2018, including an opening-round win in the PacWest tournament, the team was unable to reach the Regional tournament in Hawaii. The team is hoping for a different outcome in 2019.
“Last year, we were pretty close to going to Hawaii, so that was kind of a bummer,” said Groeneveld. “This year, that will be the goal. I think conference will be a fun way to end the season, since we’ll all be together for a week, and we’re just going to give it everything we have.”
The team’s final regular season matchup will be on Apr. 13 at Azusa Pacific. The PacWest tournament will begin on Apr. 17 in Surprise, Arizona.