At West Point this weekend, Seton Hall tennis will get a taste of Big East competition as they compete against Georgetown among other schools.
With last year’s number two position player, Regina Pitts, transferring, the lineup had to be shifted. Many of last year’s players must now use their experience to acclimate into new roles. The newcomers, two of whom are freshmen, look to make an immediate impact.
The two freshmen who will feature in the top six, Hiba El Khalifi and Aina Plana Ventosa, are still adjusting to play on hardcourt in the states. With El Khalifi out of Morocco and Plana Ventosa from Spain, both players are used to playing matches on clay courts.
Head coach Kevin McGlynn has noticed the improvements the girls made over their first few months at the college level.
“Both of them have adjusted; they’re both much more comfortable on the hardcourt now than they were in the early fall,” McGlynn said. “Even moving indoors, the courts generally play a little bit faster, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue for them. At this point, they have definitely adjusted.”
McGlynn said that they are still working the pairs for doubles, when adding in the two newcomers. He said to start off the spring season, they will be back together.
At the Navy Invitational last Fall, El Khalifi played with Minja Gligic, and they had a solid tournament together. The pair won its first-round match 6-2 and went on to win in the quarterfinals as well, finishing that match 7-5.
Plana Ventosa will be paired with Hermehr Kaur, whom McGlynn notes have connected well. Seniors Anniek Jansen and Michal Matson are the other duo since the number one player, Melody Taal, is recovering from injury.
Taal, a senior and one of the higher positions in the lineup, will still be the team captain as she was in the fall. McGlynn added that she will lead from the sideline and try to lead by example in practices.
“It’s going to be a challenge to have some people play higher in the lineup than they normally would have,” McGlynn said. “But, with that being said, they’re still able to be competitive. They should still be able to compete in the lineup, wherever they are.”
For the upcoming weekend, Seton Hall is taking their annual trip up to West Point but this time around, they play Georgetown, a lot earlier than previous years. McGlynn recognizes the opportunity for his team to see how they match up with another Big East foe.
“It sounds silly, but they [Georgetown] just happen to be in West Point that weekend,” McGlynn said. “It’s really just taking advantage of their availability. We were there last year, so in theory, we would be hosting them this year and essentially it is a hosted match there albeit not our home match. They’ll come back to us later in the season, but this gives us two matches in a weekend, neutral site and a chance to play Georgetown.”
McGlynn has not pinpointed his expectations for the upcoming months, but he just wants his team to come and compete each time. He said the concern is not about where he is the lineup or how strong the other team is but in how his team performs.
“We have to prove individually, within the team concept that we’re mentally tough,” McGlynn said. “The three seniors are going to need to share what they’ve learned in their three years here to help. Three matches in a weekend can be challenging, which we do twice this year but that does prepare us for the Big East Tournament. That mindset of ‘if you had a good result or not so good result’, that’s in the past and you’re preparing for the next opponent. Everybody handles that differently and being able to do that is important.”
Evando Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @evthmps.