The SU tennis team has already had an active pre-season. The team started the year with a match against Howard-Payne in Brownwood on September 8. In Brownwood, the Howard-Payne Yellow Jackets overtook both the girls and boys teams by an overall 4-5 score.
The Bucs followed this match with the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor Fall Classic in Temple on September 21 and September 22. The Pirates competed against Schreiner University, the University of Mary- Hardin Baylor, and Temple University. At the tournament, senior Leslie Smith and sophomore Emily Gutzmer represented the Pirates well by taking first in doubles, defeating Whitney Wolz and Amber Long with a solid 8-0 score. The next competition for the team is on September 29 in Abilene where they will play in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Tournament. The pre-season will end in October, at which time the players will be responsible for their own conditioning, until the actual season starts next semester.
The Pirates are coming off an impressive season. Last year, Southwestern had five players receive All-SCAC honors, including sophomore Mary Pennington who was also named to the All-SCAC Tennis Team.
Pennignton posted a 13-7 record both in singles and also as half of a doubles team with Michelle Tompkins. The other Pirates earning recognition were Laura Evanoff, Amy Somerford, Jay Shroff and Sean Kissinger. Of this group only Pennington and Evanoff are returning for the upcoming season. This group also represents the greatest number of players the school has had named to the All-SCAC honors list since 2003, when six players received honors.
The team finished last year with the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship Tournament in late April, where they placed fifth with a record of 2-1. At the tournament, the Pirates bounced back from a loss to Rhodes with two victories over Colorado College and Millsaps College. The team ended the season with an overall record of 14-6.
The team this year has several new faces joining the ranks, including a total of 11 freshmen, four on the boy’s team and seven on the girl’s team. The team has already joined together to become a cohesive unit, and a strong dynamic has emerged both on and off the court.
“The team is really close, and we play well together. We play well on the court as players, and then we hang out off the court as friends,” Freshman Charlotte Huskey, who has participated in the past two competitions with the team, said.
The team’s practice schedule is intensive, with practices every day of the week, varying for each team. The girl’s team practices Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:30 a.m., and Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoons, where they hone their technique and focus a great deal of effort into improving player physical fitness. “Right now, the team is putting a lot of effort into conditioning, and just making sure our bodies are in top shape. We want our skills to determine the outcome of a match, not inferior conditioning,” Huskey said. “Normally, we run an average of five miles a week, if not more. It’s a lot of work, but in the end it’s incredibly rewarding, and I think it will make such a difference when it comes to winning matches.”