The women’s tennis team season begins today with its first tournament in New Orleans.
The Salukis will face off against competition from the University of New Orleans, Nicholls State, Alcorn State, Xavier, Loyola, McNeese State and Troy in the Big Easy Classic hosted by the University of New Orleans.
Coach Audra Nothwehr said she expects to see good quality opponents, and the team has worked hard to prepare for the tournament.
“Although this isn’t conference play, we will face some pretty stiff competition,” she said. “We treat every match, conference or non-conference, with the same level of effort.”
Nothwehr said she has also implemented specialized practices for the players for further preparation.
“We have been playing more points and applying more pressure situations in practice,” she said. “We have the girls go from running hard drills into serves so that they can get used to fighting through fatigue.”
Junior Anita Lee said the concentrated practices are geared toward the players’ weaknesses.
“In practice, I’ve really been working on my racket speed, footwork and general court awareness,” she said. “I think we all prefer to spend a little extra time working on areas of our game that we should improve on.”
Nothwehr said Lee, who finished last season with 19 victories in doubles and singles play, looks impressive in practice and her game is improving.
“Anita has been stepping up in practice, and she is playing much smarter tennis,” she said.
Senior Jennifer Dien, who finished with 15 wins last year, said she also has benefited from the more intense practices.
“Lately, practices have been tougher, both mentally and physically. But I know that by pushing myself, I will make myself better and improve the performance of the team,” Dien said. “I’ve been working on my footwork and my serves so that the ball can have more kick to it.”
Dien said the long road trip would naturally fatigue the team, but not enough to affect the match’s outcome.
“We’re used to roadtrips,” she said. “We’ve traveled before, so it’s nothing new to us. It’s more of a chance for us to bond more as a team.”
The team also returns Melanie Delsart, who was last year’s No. 1 singles player and third overall in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Salukis traveled to New Orleans in 2010 to hone their skills during spring break.
“The girls had a great time in New Orleans last time we went,” Nothwehr said. “We have some new girls on the team now. I’m hoping they get a lot out of this experience.”