In 2011 the women’s tennis team was a new edition to the GLIAC . Most members hadn’t played college tennis, with few playing outside of their high school squads. This year they’re going to the GLIAC conference championship tournament.
“Going from there to one of the top contenders for possibly winning the tournament is a huge step. It’s crazy that this could happen in such a short time,” senior captain Brittany Parks said.
“It’s pretty nice to know that in only our second year we can keep up with the big dogs,” coach Nicole Walbright said. “Last year, our goal was to not come in last. This year, make GLIACs; in two to three years, the championship.”
Last year, the team was ranked third from the bottom of the conference. This year, they are seated sixth.
The team knocked out many of the teams that beat them last year, Walbright said.
“There were some matches we didn’t really believe we could be in. But we proved ourselves wrong and learned that any match is winnable, it’s just tough,” freshman Sydney Delp said. “We’re playing at such a high level that anything is possible. Everyone will be competitive. Our first match will be super tough.”
In the first match of the tournament, the team will be playing against Grand Valley State, who defeated the Chargers in its regular season finale last Friday, 8 – 1.
“Losing to a rival is never fun and we had higher expectations,” Delp said. “We definitely want revenge this weekend.”
“We can show them up because we play them first round at GLIACs,” added Parks. “They won, so they have the pressure and we have the opportunity, so we’re going to take advantage of that.”
The top eight teams in the conference go to the GLIAC tournament in Midland, Mich., home to Northwood University. They play in brackets — winners play winners and losers play losers —for three days, and at the end of the weekend, are ranked 1 – 8 based on the results.
“The ultimate goal is to win, but place higher than we’re originally seeded,” Walbright said. “And we’re in a good position to do that.”
The team has garnered significant attention from other teams for their stunning improvement.
“Their responses have been funny,” Walbright said. “[The other coaches] were expecting us to be stronger this year, but they were kind of surprised anyways. Our girls just hold themselves so well. They have so much respect and bring so much fight.”
The team plans to bring that fight to the courts this weekend and are excited to see how they can do, they said.
“I think it’s huge that we have met our team goal, but our goals have adjusted since then,” Delp said. “We’re there for something. We want to do well and we want to win.”