Anyone who followed the women’s tennis team last season might have to do a double take when they step out on the court this spring. The team has a fresh face after graduating half of their starters from 2012.
The new season also comes with new talent; six of the eleven players on the squad are first-years. However, a lack of collegiate experience doesn’t mean a lack of talent. Gustavus expects to perform strongly up and down the line-up.
“Even though half of our team is first-years, they have done such a good job of fitting right in and filling their positions on the team,” Senior Heather Annis said.
With the focused guidance from the team’s two seniors, Annis and Mallory Shellum, the young team has high hopes and straightforward goals for the 2013 season.
“Our team would love to be MIAC champions and all become better players than we were at the beginning of the season,” Sophomore Laurel Krebsbach said.
For the Gusties, the journey toward reaching their goals began on a team training trip to Arizona over Touring Week this February. Gustavus squared off against Mesa Community College in an exhibition match where they swept the home team 9-0.
In addition to getting the opportunity to practice hitting outside in warm weather, the experience gave the new squad the chance to get to know each other and bond.
“Arizona was an awesome way to start off our season. We had perfect weather, stayed at an awesome hotel, played at an amazing club and got to do a lot of fun team bonding things like go hiking and visit the Grand Canyon and Sedona,” Senior Heather Annis said. “More than anything Touring Break is a great bonding experience for the team. We end up spending an entire week together, and it’s amazing how much you can learn about your teammates in a week.”
Later that month, the team traveled north to colder climates to take on the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the College of St. Scholastica on Feb. 23 and 24.
The transition to an indoor venue didn’t seem to faze the Gusties as they came away with 9-0 and 7-2 wins over UMD and St. Scholastica, respectively. Senior Mallory Shellum led Gustavus with a 6-4, 6-2 victory in the number one singles position and a 9-7 win with Heather Annis at number one doubles.
Gustavus kicked off conference play on March 9, hosting Hamline University and St. Catherine’s University at the Swanson Tennis Center. The women started the day strong with a 9-0 sweep against Hamline, led by 6-0, 6-0 victories by Krebsback at number one singles.
However, the Gusties couldn’t keep the momentum into the evening when St. Kate’s handed them their first loss of the season with a final score of 6-3. Shellum, Maddie Lindstrom, and Sidney Dirks all picked up wins in the singles categories for Gustavus. All three doubles pairs fell short in the effort.
As the season progresses, finding the right mix of doubles partners is a top priority for the team.
“We always have really good doubles practices because our teams are equal, but it is also tricky to match us up against opponents because we all have different shots and strategies,” Annis said.
Gustavus will host Minnesota State University Mankato and Upper Iowa University on March 23 before heading to California for a Spring Break tournament. From there they will travel to Madison, Wisconsin where they’ll go head to head with some of the top teams in the region.
Even with all of the travel the Gusties aren’t losing sight of their MIAC rivals. The team cites St. Kate’s, St. Thomas, and Carleton as the three teams to beat for a conference title. St. Kate’s handed Gustavus their second regular season conference loss since 1991. The only other loss in that time came to Carleton last season, which capped off an MIAC regular season record of 9-1.
Even in the face of tough competition, the Gusties remain confident that their hard work and dedication will take them far.
“Our team dynamic this year has been very inspiring. We totally support each other at practice and during matches,” Annis said. “We’ve got a group of girls that really work hard and want to get better. The motivation our team has shown so far is a great indicator that we could go far this season.”