Due to the coating of snow on the outdoor tennis courts, the Gustavus women’s tennis team practiced inside as they began their spring season last week, practicing each day and setting their goals high from the start.
The team is comprised of 13 women, including one senior. Head Coach Jon Carlson, who has been coaching women’s tennis at Gustavus for the past 24 years, said he’s really looking forward to this season.
“We are just getting this season started, but I am having a lot of fun. Not only are the girls nice, they are also hilarious. The program has had some magical moments over the past few years, but we have never started at such a high ability level as this year. It should be an exciting year,” Coach Carlson said.
He finds it easier and more rewarding to coach a group of athletes who want to improve individually and share a common goal.
With five first-year athletes and five sophomores on the team, Junior Laurel Krebsbach noted the importance of getting her younger teammates acclimated to the team norms as quickly as possible.
“The first year of college can be very overwhelming as an athlete, because you are adjusting to a whole new environment and level of play,” Krebsbach said.
According to Krebsbach being an encouraging teammate who is willing to talk to first-year players is crucial, because it helps the team grow closer. Senior Bailey Abeyesekera is one leader on the team who made it her mission to unite the first-year students with the rest of the team, and despite their age differences, they became more than just teammates.
“After getting to know all of them on a personal level, these girls have become my friends as well. They know that I am always here for them and I think that has helped all of them to feel more comfortable,” Abeyesekera said.
While the age range may be vast, the women consider their team to be a very close-knit group.
“I think we set ourselves apart from other teams by our work ethic and support for each other. This team works hard everyday to get better. We are also very supportive of one another on and off the court,” Krebsbach said.
It’s that support that Carlson said is needed to help each other improve.
“Our leaders and entire team reach out to each other and try to establish a positive connection amongst teammates. One of the reasons I feel really good about this season is that they are all invested in each other’s enjoyment and improvement in the program,” Carlson said.
The team is known for being hard working and dedicated to their sport.
“We are the hardest working team around. We never count ourselves out and don’t give up on a point until the ball has bounced twice,” Abeyesekera said.
Right now, the team is sitting at a record of 1-1 after beating the University of Puerto Rico over Touring Week and coming short of a win to Division 1 Drake University last weekend. The team is hoping their improvement will show by the time the MIAC Championships roll around.
“The biggest thing we want to do is to create a great team atmosphere and have everyone improve individually. When we do that, the winning seems to take care of itself. Hopefully we will be in the mix to win a MIAC Championship this year,” Carlson said.
As the year goes on, the team is excited to be challenged everyday at practice and is looking forward to a successful season.
“This tennis team is capable of doing great things and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish. We have a very special group of women and I’m really looking forward to making this season one that we won’t forget,” Abeyesekera said.