Conference season welcoming for women’s tennis

Patricia Carpenter

After a rough beginning this spring season, Sacramento State women’s tennis team is finding comfort in approaching Big Sky Conference action this week, hoping to regain its confidence again.

Since 2003, the program collected 105 consecutive wins in conference and is looking at a young Hornet squad to preserve that history.

Women’s tennis head coach Dima Hrynashka said he does not find pressure being held accountable for this record, and said it is extra motivation. His main focus is to approach one match at a time, but hopes they the team is able to keep the record going.

“So far the season is actually okay,” Hrynashka said. “We have played tough teams, ranked teams and they’ve done pretty well, (especially) the freshmen.”

Hrynashka said the women are prepared for conference because they were fortunate enough to play against five ranked teams this season. Although the women lost, the experience gained was essential to improving their game.

“We talk a lot about what they are supposed to do, which way they have to play in tough moments and they already have some experience,” Hrynashka said.

Sac State credits its 1-7 record to bad luck situations in tiebreaker matches. In three out of the women’s five matches against ranked teams, they have lost by one point.

The women agreed they have to produce their best effort and skills to be able to overcome the barrier of losing a tiebreaker. The team credits its ability to stay positive after losing those matches as a strength that previous squads lacked.

Team captain Sophie Lohscheidt started off her senior season strong, winning her last four singles matches, but knows it takes a team effort to claim victories over opponents.

“After the losses, I talk to my team and tell them I’m proud of them because we have a lot of (younger women) so it’s not that easy,” Lohscheidt said.

The women said they do not feel like they are going to face any challenging teams in conference, so they see it as a chance to build confidence. When the Hornets gain more experience in the upcoming games, it will help them down the road when facing ranked teams.

“If we think about those losses, it’s just going to keep going that way,” Lohscheidt said. “I’m really happy that we have conference matches right now so we can forget about that part of the season.”

Lohscheidt said the two-week break in between the last match and conference play is the most important thing heading into the bulk of the season. It allows the team to recover from lingering injuries and soreness.

Since her sophomore season, Lohscheidt has had inflammation issues in her right arm. She said it is difficult for her to grip a racquet, but the time off will help with recovery.

Senior Katharina Knoebl, who struggled earlier this season with inflammation issues of her own, feels like she is fully healthy, but does not think she played to her advantage in her first two singles matches.

Mentally, Knoebl felt she could have prepared more, knowing the difficulty the squad is faced with when it is continually handed a loss.

“If you mention six times losing 4-3, it’s really hard, but it’s motivation for next time. We just have to keep it up,” Knoebl said.

In the Hornets first practice since coming back from their seventh loss, coach Hrynashka boosted the team’s morale by having a left-handed only practice and a crazy outfit day to help the women move past their tough road trip.

Freshman Alina Soltanici was able to pick up her first singles victory in the last match against Washington, which helped her gain confidence in herself.

“It felt so good,” Soltanici said. “We’re all doing great. We all support each other. Even if we lost a match, we’re still telling each other that it’s okay because we’re a team.”

Soltanici, a native of Moldova, said her slow start could be linked to her having to adjust to the format of college tennis because it is much different from the European tournaments she is accustomed to.

Although the pressure is on the team to maintain its streak, the Hornets said they love the challenge and know it will motivate them to earn a ranking.

For a team that has been knocked down consistently this year, the women have rallied around one another knowing that picking themselves back up is their only option to stay in the hunt for a tournament bid.

Sac State will open up Big Sky Conference play at home on March 15 against Southern Utah and Weber State at Rio Del Oro Racquet Club.