Women’s tennis struggles to find its rhythm

The PLNU women’s tennis team has struggled to maintain the health of all their players with three games left in the season. With four women injured, doubles and singles play are affected by having to replace higher positions with those lower in the lineup.

Sophomore Hannah Chiu says this has helped strengthen the team camaraderie this season.

“Some of the girls were able to step it up; we showed ourselves that we were ready to compete as a team,” said Chiu.

Senior Preethika Venugopal explained the struggles of losing some of their best players to injuries. Three women, including herself, suffered from injuries this season.

“Three of our girls have suffered from serious injuries,” she said. “Some smaller incidents have also occurred during the season. Having these three injured players as positions one, four and five consistently come in and out of our line-up has been tough on the team. When these players are unable to compete, players that are lower in the line-up have to move up and play in these higher spots. These injuries have been mentally tough on both those injured and those moving up in the lineup.”

The injuries hurting the team resulted in lost points since the women were not at their full potential, Venugopal said. For example, when the first position player is injured, a second or third player takes the place against the first position player of the opposing team. This can lead to an imbalance of skills. Despite these setbacks, Venugopal said she has great expectations for the final three games of the season.

“I am looking forward to just going out there and putting our team’s best foot forward in these last couple matches,” said Venugopal. “We definitely have the potential to win every single one of them. I am excited to see our team work hard and compete well.”

Venugopal said Coach Wheeler has been training the women to maintain motivation.

“He encourages the same attitude, regardless of the situation,” said Venugopal. “He emphasizes ACE – attitude, concentration and effort – to being pivotal to our success.”

Coach Curt Wheeler is the men’s and women’s coach this year after Coach Rich Hills retired. He said the team’s injuries have affected the their quality of play and resulted in their recent losses.

“Toward the start of the year, we had some close matches, especially with some conference teams that were close to us in ability,” said Wheeler. “Then we had a few teams from out of our area. What I’m hoping for is for everyone to be healthy. That’s been something we’ve really struggled with all season. I think that is our main goal now- up until we go to the conference tournament.”

According to the team’s schedule, PLNU has recorded many lopsided wins and losses against their opponents this season. For example, in the match against Vanguard University on Feb. 26, PLNU won 9-0. Just three days prior to this victory, PLNU lost 0-9 to BYU-Hawaii. Wheeler said these gaps in scores are from a combination of sporadic injuries that happen while the women practice and compete in addition to lost points, like hitting the net.

“Because of the injuries, there is a lack of practice time. First, their bodies do not feel good,” said Wheeler. “Second, they cannot put in the practice time to prepare for those really good teams. Most [injuries] are chronic issues. Sometimes, the ladies are able to play through these injuries and other times they are unable to compete.”

From March 6-10, the team won one out of three games against Holy Names, Academy of Art and Sonoma State University during the Spring Break trip. Chiu said the team had to endure injuries coupled with little time to rejuvenate in between matches.

“Unfortunately, some of the girls were injured [during] our Spring Break Trip,” said Chiu. “Plus, the San Diego Christian match was the fourth match out of five in six days.”

Although Chiu has not been injured this season, she said that injuries just come along with being on the team – or any sports team for that matter.

“Injuries are common for athletes and managing them is just another thing about being an athlete,” Chiu said. “Thankfully, I have not been injured at all this season, but I would say that injuries have impacted our team greatly during the season, especially in the fall. About four women have been injured total, typically due to muscle tightening. However, to say that we would have won or lost if we were not injured would be meaningless.”

The Sea Lions defeated Westmont College 6-3 on March 28 and have only three games left in the season.