The Pirates’ women’s tennis team will begin its 2014-15 campaign in Hamden, Conn., for the Quinnipiac Invitational, which will begin on Friday, Sept. 12, and run through the weekend. This year’s group looks to be competitive one, says head coach Greg Wyzkowski, and he went on to add that this group may even be better on paper than last year’s.
The SHU tennis team will open the season with some noticeable departures including Rocio Portela and Chloe Sher, who both graduated (in May?????) . The two played a prominent role on the 2013-14 roster, including one as the top doubles pairing last season, capturing 20 wins. Sher’s senior year campaign included 16 spring single wins, the most on the team and a unanimous selection to the 2014 All-Big East women’s tennis team. Her teammate, Rocio Portela also put together a strong season, finishing a team-best 5-1 record against Big East opponents.
The Hall also said goodbye to junior Alex Landert and sophomore Julie Martiny, who exited the program for personal reasons. Landert finished the season with a 10-8 record, while Martiny finished going 9-17 for her freshmen season with the Pirates.
With several losses heading into the season, this year’s roster will be a mix of newcomers including freshmen Katie Kim, Marisa Quevedo and Luize Liva Strike. Also joining the Pirates is junior transfer from Gonzaga, Isabell Klingert, who had 13 individual wins and 11 double victories. Returning for the blue and white are seniors Anna Guryanova and Madison Shoemaker, and juniors Hannah Liljekvist and Julia Keenan.
Coach Wyzkowski knows that with some of the key losses, the door has opened for others and that could be a really good thing. “We could be even stronger,” he said.
One player that should be instrumental to the new-look Pirates is Hannah Liljekvist. The Djursholm, Sweden-native and junior finished with a 10-8 record in the number two spot last season, and won her only appearance at number one. By all indications, the number one spot should be hers to lose. “Hannah has been thirsty to play the number one spot, and so far she has it,” said Wyzkowski. “She has the experience.”
It could be very probable to see Latvian freshmen, Luize Strike take the spot at number two, while knocking at the door for Hannah’s number one spot. “Once she (Strike) gets healthy, I think she can probably give Hannah a run for her money,” coach Wyzkowski said.
Fellow freshmen, Marisa Quevedo and Katie Kim are presently penciled in to be in the third and fourth spots respectively, while junior Julia Keenan could be an option at the five spot, with the rest of the spots remaining to be determined.
“The whole roster will hopefully be much stronger from top to bottom,” Wyzkowski said. He added that the challenge matches to this point, have been very, very close and competitive and spoke about the freshmen who have helped add to the competitiveness. “Almost all of them knocked off our returning players, pushed them down a spot, and in some cases, they lost a spot in the starting lineup for now.”
For doubles play, coach Wyzkowski also said it’s probable that Liljekvist and Keenan will get the spot as top doubles pair when dual matches begin, it’s a notion that comes with some intrigue for the coach. “This gives us a chance to have Hannah and Julia play for two years, instead of going out and having to make a change next year.”
For Keenan, the prospect of working with Hannah is an exciting one. “She’s a great player, and great competitor,” Keenan said. “I think we’re going to work well together—our games are going to mesh well.”
While admitting it was too early to tell, another intriguing option for number one could be the freshmen tandem of Marissa Quevedo and Luize Strike, says Wyzkowski. “It’s possible the freshmen could be our number one team,” he said. “We have to wait and see what happens in the full tournament.” For now, it looks most probable that the two freshmen will be a solid number two pairing for the Pirates.
The third pairing might be freshmen Katie Kim, alongside one of either Shoemaker, Klingert or Guryanova.
When asked about the overall expectations for the team, Wyzkowski made it clear he’s looking to be a competitive squad that has a chance to beat anybody. “They’re on the right page with that, they’re competitive and they have the right attitude,” he said. “They’re all working hard and pushing each other. We’re off to a good start, now we have to see what happens in tournaments.”
Neal McHale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.