By Danielle Williams
Grinnell’s women’s tennis team has seen many accomplishments throughout the past few years and this season is shaping up to follow suit.
This year, the team is well-balanced with a sizable number of returning players and a group of eager newcomers with great potential. The team started the season off with a scrimmage, in an attempt to help the new players adjust to what the season’s matches would entail.
Although the team took a few losses and finished sixth out of eight in the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawk Invitational over Labor Day weekend, it hasn’t seemed to dampen their strides as they have won three of five matches, including two conference shutouts, since the tournament. The Pioneers topped Illinois Wesleyan University eight to one before losing one to eight to Augustana College this past Saturday in Rock Island, Ill. After splitting those decisions, the Pioneers traveled to Monmouth, Ill. to defeat Midwest Conference foes Illinois College and Monmouth College, both nine to zero.
“[Whitewater is] traditionally the hardest tournament of the season that we play. … We had a couple of first-years who had never played before [this year] so it was their first experience against hard teams and they did pretty well,” said Sadhana Athreya ’14. “We played four matches in two days. [That] was intense. Saturday was really hot, but everyone managed to pull through. Even though we lost against Augustana, I thought we all did pretty well—gave it 100 percent and then on Sunday everyone stepped up and we won both [conference] matches.”
The team also dealt with an injury to Shirlene Luk ’15, who hurt her ankle against Augustana, causing many players to play one spot higher in the lineup.
“A lot of players had to play up a spot [at Whitewater]. It’s really difficult and we had a lot of hard matches because we’re playing good teams to begin with and then we’re playing above our typical lineup position,” said Emma Macdonald ’14. “I think it was a good start to the season. … It was a really great opportunity for us to show our depth.
On Tuesday of this week, the team played another match, this time against Luther College and lost three to six, bringing the team’s overall match record to three wins, two losses on the season.
“I’m pretty happy with the way we played considering it’s the first match weekend of the season and we played against very competitive teams, but we didn’t go down without a fight which is a good thing,” said Hanna Feldman ’14.
With hard fought matches under their belts, the new players will be better able to deal with the stress that comes with higher stakes matches.
Coach Andy Hamilton referred to this period as a developmental phase and expresses hope for the next few matches. He, as well as the team’s new assistant coach, Lawrence Eyre, has been training the girls on a more individual level. In addition, they’ve been putting more emphasis on team conditioning.
“We had a good start, in that I see potential with our group. We are challenged right now with getting in better shape, better match condition and we’re challenged with trying to learn through the experience of playing matches so that players get more comfortable when they’re put in difficult match situations,” said Hamilton. “Some of our play has not been as strong as I thought they might be, but I hold out vision for the future because I see great potential.”
Overall, the team’s outlook is positive, emphasizing the integration of new players and an improvement on individual skills.
“This weekend prepared us for how we have to play in the future and we also know what we have to improve, but I think as a team our atmosphere is really good—we’re responding really well and we’re supporting each other really well,” Feldman said.