Story by Blake Bernier, Staff Writer
With five new faces, the women’s tennis team is preparing to defend its OVC championship for the second year in a row under Head Coach Jorge Caetano.
Each of the last two years have ended exactly the same, with the Racers winning the OVC title against Eastern Kentucky and losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Vanderbilt.
The biggest difference between the last two seasons and this coming one is the absence of a true No. 1 for singles.
“I feel like last year we had Andrea (Eskauriatza) but this year our top four are very similar level,” Caetano said. “They play different styles.”
Last year the team had six returning players to the team but this year there are only returning seniors Megan Blue from Mississauga, Ontario, Erin Patton from Memphis, Tennessee and Suzaan Stoltz from Brisbane, Australia.
“We have Megan playing at [number] one because she is a senior and two-time All-Conference team and she likes playing on that level,” Caetano said.
Last season Blue finished with a singles record of 14-10 but knows that playing at the top spot requires a higher level of skill and focus.
“It’s a different type of game style, but I have to lead them as much as I can,” Blue said.
With a new team the Racers are still focused on one thing: an OVC championship.
“Nothing is different other than the team is a little different,” Blue said. “But it’s the same dynamic-we still want to win.”
Caetano brought in four freshmen and one junior college transfer to help the team compete this year.
During the fall semester the team competed in two tournaments and Caetano said the team showed some promise in both the singles and doubles matches.
“We had some good competition in the two tournaments we played,” Caetano said.
“We competed well and won some good matches, so I’m excited.”
The Racers finished 8-6 in the singles matches and 4-4 in the doubles. Newcomer Alina Schibol from Hamburg, Germany, and teammate Stoltz won both of singles matches at the Steve Baras Invitational.
This year the doubles teams are all new after their top team of Verginie and Eleonore Tchakarova transferred to St. Louis University, but the teams are playing well together and Caetano said he expects them to continue to improve once the season starts.
“I think it’s been one of the best doubles teams that we’ve had,” Blue said.
The title defense will begin on March 18 when the Racers open conference play at Morehead State. Next up for the Racers will be a match at the University of Evansville on Jan. 29.