Love on the tennis team

Love on the tennis team

by Laura Dillavou

With a host of freshman and only a few returning players, women’s tennis coach Bob Nutgrass is optimistic.

“We’re different this year. Our lineups have changed and we’re seeing a lot of promise from our younger players, though we still have fundamentals to work on throughout the season,” said Nutgrass.

Overall, the Storm was fifth in conference last year, but hope to finish third in 2003. As for sophomore, co-captain Tracy Schiltz, she would like to see the team reach at least fourth.

“We have a young team, but we are talented and ready. We also have a great team chemistry that helps us on and off the court,” said Schiltz.

Team bonding activities, like going out to eat together and movie nights, are something that has unified this mix of girls.

Schiltz feels that a key ingredient to any kind of success happens just as much off the court as it does on.

In addition to team leadership, she also commented on the attitude of Nutgrass.

“He cares about us on and off the court. Coach Nutgrass goes out of his way to make sure we’re doing our best, whether that is in school, on the court, or otherwise,” said Schiltz.

With such a young team there are conflicts that arise in lineup, skills, and goals.

Nutgrass feels that even though his team has definite things that need improvement, such as the direction of the ball and basic tennis fundamentals, his team works well under pressure.

At the meet against Wartburg, the freshmen pulled through to give valuable wins to the team. At the same time though, Nutgrass feels that the younger face of the Storm may get intimidated too easily on the court.

Strengths, however, abound on this fresh-faced team. One of the most impressive things, says Nutgrass, is the tightness of the group.

“Team unity is important, but these girls are really giving it their all. With three captains, that was the goal, but we had no idea it would be this good,” said Nutgrass.

This unity is shown in the success of the doubles matches.

While the single matches have had moderate success, according to Nutgrass, it has been the doubles matches that have really given the team points in the end.

With winning in mind, players, such as freshman Jen Gibson, are feeling the intensity during practices.

“Compared to high school, this is a lot harder. We run a lot more and do many more drills than what I was used to. It’s fun though, and we know it’s working,” Gibson said.

She also feels that because they are such a young team, the unity they’ve shown will continue to improve in the next few years.

Co-captains senior Amanda Byas, sophomore Emily DeBolt and Schiltz, along with the rest of the sophomore players have made the team stronger and set a good example for the freshmen.

The team, along with Nutgrass and assistant coach Pat Heller, seem ready to take on conference rivals Coe and Loras.

“There are some really good teams this year. Luther has a state champ on their roster, and Coe has an outstanding international student,” said Nutgrass. “We could get sixth place and still be a strong, great team. It’s just the way things work out.”