Texas Tech Women's Tennis Outlook 1997-98
Red Raider women should be much improved with addition of two new players but must battle nagging injuries
With the new spring 1998 women's tennis season, Texas Tech director of tennis Tim Siegel and women's assistant coach Mary Dailey find themselves searching for healthy tennis players. Hopefully for Siegel and Dailey, in their second seasons as Tech women's tennis coaches, and the Red Raiders, that trend will not continue.
Texas Tech began the 1997 fall tournament campaign with eight players. But bad luck set in as promising freshman Alenka Ovin was found ineligible and sophomore Erica Dopson suffered with a nagging back injury. Several other Red Raiders have endured minor or nagging injuries including freshman Zana Zlebnik and junior Misty Meyer.
Injuries or no injuries, Siegel and Dailey have their work cut out for them in the tough Big 12 Conference.
"We're a lot more talented players than last year but we have to make it through these injuries," Dailey said. "It's going to come down to the mental part for us this year. We are better individually and each player is a better player, so it's going to come down to the mental part."
"There will be a point in each match when we hope they'll say, 'I'm a little achy, I'm a little tired, but I'm going to find a way to win anyway.' If each one them plays the way they can play, we'll be a much better team, but if we're looking around and hoping the other one's going to win, that won't work."
Texas Tech has plenty of talent returning from last year's youthful 10-11 squad which finished sixth in the Big 12 Conference with a 5-6 mark. The Red Raiders did the job both on and off the court as they had six players earn All-Big 12 Academic honors- the most of any women's tennis team. Tech lost only three players from last year's squad including All-Big 12 Conference first team selection senior Eva Eguiguren, senior Erika Fisher and Carrie Helbing. Eguiguren finished last season with an 11-10 singles record (7-3 at No. 1 singles) and teamed with Earhart for an 11-5 doubles record.
"Last year was a positive experience for the team because they found out that hard work and a positive team attitude is the key to success," Siegel said. "We competed extremely well and proved that the women's team is on the rise."
Even with the three losses, six of the nine 1997 players return to this year's squad, which makes the team seasoned and experienced. And the additions of Zlebnik and Ovin improve the team dramatically.
Zlebnik and Ovin will make an immediate impact. Both players are from 2 Gimnazija Academy in Maribor, Slovenia and both have the ability to provide and instant impact. Zlebnik will compete either at No. 1 or No. 2 singles and will be an immediate impact player while Ovin is ineligible to compete this season, but will practice with the team and prepare for next season.
"We'll have to deal with not having Alenka Ovin, one of our two talented recruits and we've had a number of injuries this fall, but we'll be okay." Siegel said. "Everyone will have to step up."
Earhart will return to the top of the singles lineup for her second season at Tech. The sophomore finished with the most victories last season with a 14-6 record (7-4 Big 12). She also compiled a 10-4 record at No. 3 singles and formed Tech's No. 1 doubles team with Eguiguren.
Several Red Raiders will contribute in the middle and lower portions of the singles lineup including senior Christine Van Regenmorter, junior Misty Meyer, sophomores Lakshmi and Sarada Ravindra and Erica Dopson. All-Big 12 Academic selection Christine Van Regenmorter returns to the Red Raiders' singles lineup where she recorded Tech's best singles record of 1997 at 13-4. The senior also compiled a 7-1 Big 12 record and 7-2 record at No. 6 singles. Meyer, also an All-Big 12 Academic standout, will return with a 7-13 (5-6 No. 5 singles) record. Twins Lakshmi (10-9 overall) and Sarada Ravindra (1-6 overall) both return as All-Big 12 Academic selections and will provide stability and depth while Dopson joins the team after redshirting and sitting out last season with a back injury.
In doubles, Tech will feature Zlebnik and Earhart as the No. 1 team followed by at No. 2 team of Lakshmi Ravindra and Van Regenmorter and either Meyer, Dopson or Sarada Ravindra at No. 3.
Siegel is extremely excited about his 1997 squad.
"I'm very excited about Zana Zlebnik as our No. 1 player," Siegel said. "I think she's has everything it takes- the talent, work ethic, athletic ability and experience. Amanda Earhart is my kind of player- she fights hard and has a tremendous amount of determination. Lucky Ravindra played well for us at No. 4 and Christine Van Regenmorter was our most improved player last year. I love Christine's hustle and scrappy style. Sarada and Misty will be counted on to help us in both singles and doubles- they both have the experience to help us and Erica Dopson is a very talented player with tremendous dedication."
"The thing the team learned last year is that there is no one out there we can't compete with," Dailey said. "The biggest thing for us, no matter what or whoever we play, we always get a couple of singles wins, but we haven't been strong enough in doubles to beat quality teams. My goal for this year is to have better doubles teams out there so we can win some of those tougher matches."