Story by Cory Sharber, Contributing writer
As the “Great Beginnings” of the semester have passed, the Murray State tennis team is preparing to embrace theirs on Sept. 8.
The Racers will begin the start of their fall Season at the Austin Peay Invitational this weekend.
As a young team thirsting for redemption following an early-round OVC tournament exit last season, the Racers will be looking to make their mark early in the fall season. The team will be returning nearly everyone except Alina Schibol, who was the lone senior last season.
Head Coach Jorge Caetano said his team has taken big steps early in the year. While he is unsure on who’s improved the most individually, he says the team has taken a collective step forward.
The team has already obtained a preseason honor, being recognized for having a top-25 recruiting class within mid-major programs.
Both freshman Aarja Chakraborty, from Gautam Budh Nagar, India, and freshman Stasya Sharapova, from Astana, Kazakhstan, are coming off solid high school careers, both obtaining rankings within the top 800 in the International Tennis Federation for juniors.
Not only do the new recruits show great futures ahead of them, but sophomore Claire Chang, from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, has one that should put conference opponents on notice. Chang is looking to progress from an All-OVC Second Team season. She’s projected to be the No. 1 singles player after winning 12 matches last season.
Caetano said he is looking forward to not only the team’s progression, but his improvement as a coach as well.
“I always try to learn new things and bring new things to our practice,” Caetano said. “Doing this for four years now gives me even more confidence.”
Caetano’s tenure with the program has led to a great relationship with his players, enabling honesty to be commonplace within the team dynamic.
“Whatever you’re doing, I’m always going to tell you the truth,” said Caetano on his relationship with his players. “If it’s good or bad, I’m going to be honest with you guys,”
As Caetano’s team is set to open up their season Friday, he said he hopes they can maintain a competitive mindset in their fall opener.
“I want them to have a competitive mentality,” Caetano said. “That’s what I want to do with this team. Our number one priority is to get the job done.”
The Austin Peay Invitational is where the job will start for the Racers. They’re looking to improve on a sub-par season last year, where they posted a record of seven wins and 12 losses. But Caetano believes his team has the potential to be much better than what is shown on paper.
“Our record last year doesn’t show our potential, and [the team] knows that,” Caetano said.
Caetano will be hoping his team plays to that potential when they open their first match of the season on Friday, Sept. 8 at Austin Peay.
“During the tournament, they just want to do their best,” Caetano said. “We’re going to go in there to compete. We have a chance to win them all.”