Woman’s tennis team aiming for the Top 20

The women’s tennis team has already bested its 2009 national ranking without even stepping onto the court.

The Frogs, who are set to make a play at the national championships, opened the season ranked two spots ahead of last year’s finish.

The Frogs were ranked No. 27 on the initial Campbell/Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll.

Head coach Jefferson Hammond said that it was nice to be ranked in the top 30, but that his expectations were not yet met.

“Obviously, in the end, (our ranking) doesn’t mean a lot, but it’s a starting point.” Hammond said. “Our goal is to be top 20 and get to the Sweet 16 this year and the NCAA championships.”

During the course of the season, the Frogs will take on 10 teams ranked in the top 25.
Hammond said the tough schedule is no accident, and the experience of playing tougher opponents will only make the team better.

“We go for a really tough schedule,” Hammond said. “We know every match is (going to) be tough and will challenge us for sure. (We’re) going to see what we’re made of.”

Chris Del Conte, athletics director, said he is optimistic about the season but is looking forward to the team building on its ranking.

“It’s a reflection on last year’s team,” Del Conte said of the ranking. “Anytime a pre-season ranking comes out, they look at who did you return and (who) did other teams lose.”

Del Conte acknowledged the tough schedule and said he isn’t concerned about winning all of the games this season.

“I’m not worried about winning in January,” Del Conte said. “You (want to) win at the end of the spring when you’re getting ready to enter the tournament.”

Jaime Handy, an athletic media relations graduate assistant, said that it’s important for the team to get a few wins under its belt in order to get some confidence.

He said that two wins at Vanderbilt University on Friday would put the team in the National Indoor ITA championships in Madison, Wis.

“That (will) give us a chance to play more ranked teams and a chance to get better,” Handy said.

The women’s tennis team has made the NCAA tournament six years in a row, the most in school history. However, the team has only made it to the Sweet 16 round once.

Del Conte said that this year’s team will have plenty of opportunities to be tested and prepared for post-season play.

However, he said the biggest issue is just making a tournament.

“You never know what team is (going to) get hot,” Del Conte said. “That’s the magic of college athletics.”

Handy said one potential springboard for the team could be at home against Texas A&M University on March 6.

“I think the A&M match at home will be a big motivator,” Handy said. “Either (that match) will motivate us to spring into conference play.or it can be one of those things where we’ll have to see where the team is at, at that point.”

No matter what happens through the course of the season, Hammond said, the experience of the team will help the players handle whatever pressure they face.

“We have a veteran team, and we’ve got high expectations,” Hammond said. “The idea is that, as you get older you continue to get better, and we’ve got opportunities to use our experience to our advantage this year.”