By Dalton Ray–
Last season wasn’t the most memorable for the women’s tennis team. In their first year in one of the nation’s hardest conferences, the team had only one senior, and most of the playing roster was made up of freshman. On top of that, the team had just lost two of the most decorated players in program history–Julia Fellerhoff and Rebecca Shine.
After starting off 9-1, the Cards couldn’t keep up in the ACC with such a young team. They would only win three more games the rest of the year. Sophomores Ariana Rodriguez and Jessie Paul both played in the majority of matches, while freshman Ola Mally had to sit out the year with an injury.
The 2016 team will look young on paper, but the group has their fair share of miles on them. The most veteran players on this year’s squad comes in juniors Olivia Boseing and Elle Stokes. Head coach Mark Beckham says he feels like Boesing and Paul are two of the team’s leaders in different ways.
“Olivia is the oldest one on the team and has been around the longest,” Beckham said. “She’s done a really good job for us. Jessie isn’t as vocal as Olivia, but she’s definitely a leader on this team.”
Beckham would also acknowledge the growth he has seen from his freshman from last year to this year.
“Now that they have experience they know what to expect,” Beckham explained. “The thing about freshman is they think know everything, and they know nothing. They have to go through it first to know what to anticipate and better find how to handle situations.”
With expectations now in place of what will happen, mixed with experience in the conference, Boesing feels more confident about the upcoming year.
“Last year’s team was just so young,” Boseing said. “We had five girls who didn’t have any college level experience, and it was tough. This year with a full year of playing at this level under our belt is just huge.”
The Cardinals started out their season opening double-header with two victories. They first defeated WKU 4-2 and then downed Southern Illinois 5-2.
The WKU match had a quick turn of tide as the Hilltoppers went from being down 3-0 before gaining back-to-back points. With two courts alive, Abbie Pahz clinched the match after beating Elpida Malamou (6-0, 3-6, 6-0). Afterwards she was happy to get the win.
“This was the first match of the year, and we’re still feeling things out,” Pahz said. “We aren’t fully healthy but we had to go out there and play our game. We fought hard and got the win.”
Compared to only having three players who played at the Division I, this year all but one have. The improvements the team has made over the year will reflect on this team’s record.