By Dalton Ray–
Entering their final year as Cardinals, seniors Olivia Boesing and Elle Stokes have been apart of the highs and lows of the women’s tennis program. As they enter their final semester, the two look to elevate the program back to prominence.
As freshmen, Boesing and Stokes watched as Julia Fellerhoff and Rebecca Shine carried the Cardinals. Forced into action the next season, the Cards have back-to-back losing seasons.
“The difference in our last two years to our first is we haven’t had upperclassmen the past two years,” Boesing said. “Coming into this year, we know what our expectations are and we have those upperclassmen now.”
Stokes said inexperience isn’t the only thing that has held this team back the past two years.
“The last two years we’ve had bad injuries as well and we’ve been very unfortunate. This year is just a lot different. We have great leadership and great confidence. I can see us playing in the NCAA Tournament and performing well in the ACC,” Stokes said.
Entering one year after Boesing and Stokes, Jessie Paul, Aleksandra Mally and Ariana Rodriguez were placed in a similar situation as the seniors. While Mally’s season ended with an injury, Paul and Rodriguez were shoved into big lights as freshmen. Both Boesing and Stokes have seen a huge transformation in the three.
“All three of the players that came under us have progressed so much. Ariana is doing very well and has gotten stronger,” Boesing said. “It’s awesome to see (Mally) finally getting to play. She’s a huge difference maker.”
Stokes said Paul’s leadership skills are changing her game.
“Jessie has definitely gained leadership skills, I think playing with Olivia has really helped that. (Rodriguez) continues to improve her game. And for (Mally) to sit two years out, come back and be undefeated in singles, it says a lot about her game,” Stokes said.
Looking to give his team an extra boost, coach Mark Beckham added transfer Mariana Humberg this offseason. Already paying off, Humberg is 4-0 in singles and 4-0 in doubles with the help of Abbie Pahz.
A different style of play, Humberg adds another dimension to the team. Boesing and Stokes expect Humberg to help this team reach the next level.
“Everyone on our team likes to hit the ball hard, (Humberg) likes to slice and add more touch. She’s very difficult to play and she a lot of confidence,” Stokes said.
Boesing added that Humberg helps the team develop because they see Humberg’s game in practice so much.
Game preparation is one change Boesing has placed more emphasis on in her final year.
“Coach has told us about visualization and that’s something we’re all trying to do. Aside from that, seeing Dr. Shannon and improving my mental game by staying positive is big for me,” Boesing said.
For Stokes, she is drawing inspiration from one of the game’s best, Roger Federer.
“At the moment, I have to sit out four weeks. So it’s giving me a lot of confidence to watch (Federer) sit out six months then come back and win a Grand Slam. I feel like I can come back and still have a good season,” Stokes said.
Photo by Wade Morgen / The Louisville Cardinal