DENVER – The University of Denver Women’s tennis program has a new head coach this season and with that comes new opportunities to grow as individuals and as a team.
Last year the Pioneers finished the season with an 18-4 record, while touting an 8-0 record in Western Athletic Conference (WAC) play and went into the postseason as a No. 1 seed in the WAC Tournament. But an unexpected loss to No. 2 San Jose State ended Denver’s bid for a conference championship. And with plenty of top teams on the schedule this season, the DU women will have to stay focused if they want to vie for a conference title again.
“This year we do travel quite a bit,” said Women’s Tennis head coach Christian Thompson. “So we always stress to our girls the importance of good time management skills, doing well in school and getting enough rest. “
The women hit the road first thing, beginning the 2013-14 season at the University of Colorado Invitational on Friday, September 27 in Boulder, Colo. and will continue to travel for the rest of the fall.
“The big meet in the fall is the ITA Regional Championship in Vegas. If you win it, you get to go to the individual nationals,” said Thompson. “And after Vegas we go to College of Charleston which will hopefully be a really nice event. It’ll be a good experience for the girls to play in Charleston, S.C.”
In early 2014, Thompson looks forward to the ITA kickoff at the University of North Carolina on Friday, January 24 in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“The ITA kickoff is a prestigious event in the sense that you have to be ranked in order to get in it,” Thompson said. “Last year we didn’t play a team in the top 10 and so at the ITA kickoff it’s going to be very interesting to see how we compete in that situation. And hopefully we’ll learn from the event as well.”
The Pioneers’ first home event is Saturday, February 22 against Wichita State. After that, Denver returns to the road until Tuesday, March 25 when it hosts Colorado State University. DU women’s tennis will close the 2013-14 season with three straight home meets spanning from April 18-20 against opponents Fort Wayne, Western Illinois and Omaha before hosting the Summit League Championships on Friday, April 25.
“The girls are pretty pumped about hosting the conference championship again this year,” Thompson said. “They are really excited to get some revenge back at home.”
And with a team that is as cohesive and talented as this year’s is, the DU women’s tennis players have a good shot at winning a title in 2014.
“Our team is a very close group,” Thompson said. “I know that Caroline and Michelle, the captains this year, are very warm and welcoming – they’re everybody’s best friend, which is great because they’ve fostered an environment that is light-hearted.”
However, don’t mistake this friendly attitude towards fellow teammates for weakness on the part of the DU players.
“I know that the girls, when they’re on the court, they really enjoy it,” Thompson said. “But at the same time, they also understand the work that it takes to get to the next level. So it’s a good combination.”
DU women’s tennis kicks off the season this weekend at the University of Colorado Invitational in Boulder, Colo. where it will face opponents from University of Colorado, Arkansas and Southern Methodist University. The meet should prove a good challenge for the Pioneers.
“The competition this weekend is right around our level, so I’m excited to see how we compete and do with some new players,” Thompson said.
Also this weekend, senior Caroline Schnell (Greenwood Village, Colo.) will participate in the ITA All-America Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Schnell was the only member of the DU women’s tennis team to make it into the pre-qualifiers of this tournament and will be traveling with assistant coach David Lowenthal.
Going into the 2013-14 season, Thompson has high hopes for her players and wants to instill a sense of pride and hard work in the team.
“Last year the women made huge strides and to see them grow and develop was just really rewarding and that’s what I really enjoy about coaching,” Thompson said. “I’m really passionate about this job and I hope that it rubs off on the girls. I try to get them to believe in something bigger than themselves—to believe in the goals and the dreams that they set for this year. I want them to have that fighting spirit and enjoy the process of being here and being able to play college tennis as well as working hard.”
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