The USD women’s tennis team is starting their 2018 season with hopes of improving after placing second to Denver in the Summit League Championship last year.
The team was picked in a preseason poll to come in second in the Summit League behind four-time champion, Denver.
Head coach Brett Barnett said although he expected the team to be placed where they are, the team is working towards their goal of first place.
“That’s where I figured where we’d be,” Barnett said. “We’ve taken second the last two years and lost in the tournament final last year. It’s nice to be voted second, but we have bigger goals than that. We’re definitely not playing for second; we’re looking to beat Denver and win the league this year.”
Junior Anastasiia Bondarenko said she thinks losing to Denver in the finals last year gives the team a leg up for taking home the title this year.
“Obviously we wanted to win the conference, but it was a really tough match,” she said. “We played against Denver and we knew that we could beat them, but that day didn’t go very well. I think we know what they can do and we know what we can do to beat them.”
Bondarenko said she’s excited for a great season and thinks the best way for them to reach their goals is to go into each practice with a hard work ethic.
“We just need to practice really well and try hard every practice and I think it’s the key to success,” she said.
Barnett said he sets up the team’s schedule to teach them different lessons throughout the season.
“We’re looking to play different levels…we go anywhere from top 40 team in the country to some really good mid-major teams and then maybe a couple that don’t bring us as much pace and show us a couple different things,” he said. “So we’re ready for pretty much anything come conference play.”
Short term goals to strengthen doubles will help the team reach their goal of taking home the Summit League title, Barnett said.
“We need to get our doubles better and stronger, we don’t want to be dropping doubles points regularly, it’s going to be tough to win four singles matches against a lot of good teams,” he said. “I mean, our singles players were super sharp last weekend but we can do a better job of closing out sets and playing our subtle tennis and not getting tight at moments.”