Grinnell’s women’s tennis team has a fresh look this year with a large freshman class, a new assistant coach and eyes set on the Conference Championships.
“In some ways, this is a completely different team,” said head coach Andy Hamilton ’85. “I think that this year’s team is even better than last year’s. It’s just that the make-up of this team is significantly younger.”
Four first-years started in the team’s first two matches of the season on Aug. 29 against Edgewood College and Augustana College. The Pioneers emerged victorious against Edgewood during with first-years Amelia Cogan, Judith Fan, Lily Hamilton and Megan Jans (all ’19), demonstrating their potential to perform at the collegiate level. Versus Augustana, Grinnell lost 8-1.
“Judith [Fan] is really consistent,” Jans said. “Usually you think that playing perpetual defense isn’t a good thing, but she’s so great at it that she tires out her opponents.”
Cogan and Fan have started off their partnership on good footing, winning their Edgewood match 8-5. Jans also boasted her skills by winning both her doubles match with partner Anushka Joshi ’18, 8-0 and #3 singles match, 6-1 and 6-0.
“This was slightly more intense [than high school] because the coaches were on the sidelines instructing you what to do all the time, so it’s a lot more of a high-pressure situation,” Jans said.
Jans is looking to play a vital part on the team. She places in the top half of the team’s lineup and looks to maintain that position during her time at Grinnell. She notes that she needs to work on her footwork and conditioning in order to get better at doubles and help the team win Conference.
“I’m hoping to win our conference. I think we have the strongest team this year,” Jans said. “In college there’s more emphasis on doubles, so I’ve had to improve my skills.”
Hamilton is optimistic about the first-years, yet does not see this year as a rebuilding year. He stresses that in college sports, every year differs from the last.
“We’re not focused on the future, we’re focused on right now,” Hamilton said. “We’re trying to get them to play at the collegiate level.”
These two matches marked assistant coach Daniel Key’s Grinnell debut. After taking a break from collegiate coaching, Key promises to bring his vast knowledge of tennis to help the team make a run at Conference.
“He has good knowledge of the serve and volley and he’s shown understanding of the mental side of playing tennis,” Hamilton said. “To run our tennis program well, what I need is loyalty and consistency in an assistant coach. The tennis skills that they bring are important, but less important. Coach Key has definitely shown his loyalty and consistency in the first weeks of working in the program.”
Looking ahead, the Pioneers are ready to battle in the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater Tournament this weekend, an opportinuty for Hamilton and Key’s team to gain to valuable playing time and improve.
“There’s going to be a lot of weekly and daily growth that we will have to undergo in order for us to meet our expectations of making it into the Midwest Conference,” Hamilton said.