Although Hillsdale College moved from the GLIAC to the G-MAC in July, women’s tennis is starting the year matched against its former oppo­nents.

Facing the largest adjustment of Hillsdale’s 14 varsity pro­grams, women’s tennis will compete in con­ference play in the spring instead of the fall, due to Great Midwest Ath­letic Conference’s schedule. The team, however, is looking to take advantage of the five extra months it has before com­peting in season by par­tic­i­pating in non­con­ference com­pe­ti­tions.

“The whole purpose of our fall season is to get a lot of match play in and figure out what we need to work on for the spring season,” head coach Nikki Wal­bright said. “It’s been a really big dis­ad­vantage in years past that we come back and had to just imme­di­ately go into some really high-pressure, com­pet­itive match plays, because our matches at the beginning of the year really affected us for our con­ference season. Now we’ll be able to get some matches under our belt, figure out things we need to work on, and build our con­fi­dence and tol­erance for match play.”

That starts at home on Sat­urday when the Chargers play the Michigan Tech Huskies at 10 a.m., and it con­tinues on Sunday against the Saginaw Valley State Car­dinals at noon.

Last con­ference season, Hillsdale, which fin­ished at No. 7 of eight in the GLIAC tour­nament, went 1 – 1 against Michigan Tech and 2 – 0 against Saginaw Valley in close matches.

“They’re really tight with us,” Wal­bright said. “I think they’re the same level as us, so it can hon­estly go either way.”

The two GLIAC teams, however, are com­peting in the midst of their con­ference season. Unable to start prac­tices until Labor Day because of the move to the spring season, Hillsdale had its first practice of the aca­demic year on Monday.

“It is kind of like a get in, and hit, and do your best kind of sit­u­ation,” Wal­bright said.

Ath­letes, however, said they are using their three prac­tices before the matches to the max, and they described Monday’s workout as the hardest they have ever had.

“The goal for the season is that we are going to not give away easy points, we are going to fix our serves, and we are going to be in better con­dition and better shape than every single other team in the G-MAC,” freshman Casey Kibler said. “If we’re in better shape than everyone else, it doesn’t matter skill-wise, because we can outlast them.”

The women also are using the time to bond as a team. In addition to holding their own group hits, they have met for meals and hung out together, espe­cially with their freshman team­mates: Hannah Cim­peanu, Elli For­mentin, and Kibler.

“I think the freshmen still know us as much as pre­vious freshmen do, because we’ve reached out to them and made those efforts,” junior Corinne Prost said. “Feeling like you’re going to have girls who under­stand you, who know your strengths and weak­nesses on and off the court, is very important. I think girls thrive in that kind of envi­ronment.”

On the court, Wal­bright said the freshmen add depth to the young team’s lineup and are new chal­lenges against whom the older ath­letes can compete, some­thing women’s tennis will do fre­quently come spring.

“I think we’ll do even better this year, because we have that whole semester to get to know each other and practice,” Prost said.