Women’s tennis has struggled to start season

Patricia Capenter

The Sacramento State women’s tennis team has seen its struggles in the first eight matches of the young season, but the women are looking to turn the corner in the next few weeks.

The Hornets (1-7) are entering their spring campaign with one win on their record, which is highly uncharacteristic of their decorated program.

Last year during this time, the Hornets record was identical to this season’s where the 2013 squad collected one victory and lost their national top-75 ranking for the first time in 10 seasons.

Sac State’s director of tennis Bill Campbell is entering his eighth season and said he wants to guide it back to its prominence.

“We feel really good about this team,” Campbell said. “We have four new players in the lineup and we’re very young, but I think it’s potentially one of the best teams that we’ve ever had.”

Since 2002 under Campbell’s tenure, the Sac State women’s tennis team has produced 12-consecutive Big Sky Conference championships, each earning them a trip to the NCAA tournament where they have not been able to move on past the first round.

That includes the women accounting for 31 all-conference selections and seven MVP awards.

“Our goal is to be in the top-75 and win the conference,” Campbell said. “We would like to get past the first round in the NCAA tournament or go as far as we can.”

This is a tall order when looking at the Sac State women’s tennis roster, which consists of two first-years, three sophomores and two seniors.

Wins have been tough to come by for this youthful squad, in large part to the inexperience that is being put out there on the court.

At times the women admitted they do feel pressure to preserve the history of the tennis program, but said their first win took that burden off of their shoulders.

No. 1 player sophomore Jennifer Nguyen has played a pivotal role in her second season with the Hornets, which earned her a Big Sky Conference player of the week award. Her 1-7 singles record does not reflect the amount of success she shown this season.

In all but two of Nguyen’s loses she has forced a tiebreaker situation, but could not come out with a victory in the final set.

“We have quite a strong team this semester,” Nguyen said. “We are all very close to each other in terms of playing wise and we all get along pretty well.”

Nguyen said it was very important to get their first win because the confidence from it will help them with matches to come.

Seniors Katharina Knoebl and Sophie Lohscheidt have made it their duty to help guide their young teammates. They have taken on the role of reassuring the players’ confidence and offering tips essential for their successes.

“Our new girls are pretty good,” Lohscheidt said. “Sometimes I feel like they’re nervous, but at the end of the season they’re going to get used to it.”

Lohscheidt is playing in the No. 5 and No. 6 position this season where she has recorded a 5-2 singles record.

“I try to talk to them after matches and I try to encourage them,” Lohscheidt said. “I think we have a really good atmosphere on the team and everyone gets along.”

She credits this to having a solid team that can play at the same level in every singles match position, which will help them further down the road when facing teams who have weaker players in those spots.

Knoebl has had tremendous success with freshman doubles partner Alina Soltanici, who together achieved an overall record of 5-1 thus far.

“We play so many matches during the season,” Knoebl said. “You have to handle the pressure better and believe in yourself.”

Knoebl said tennis is psychological game and mentally the women need to have confidence in their play for them to be successful.

Looking at a breakdown of their matches, the Hornets have lost in crucial tiebreaker situations in every loss this season.

“All of the matches that we’ve lost this year we’ve been right there,” Campbell said. “For the amount of collegiate experience that they have they are doing very well.”

Campbell said they have had elite players at the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in the past, but fell short of talent in the positions No. 6-3. He claims this will be a crucial factor determining the women’s success for the rest of this season.

Next up, Sac State begins conference play at home on March 15 against Southern Utah and Weber State at Rio Del Oro Racquet Club.