W. Tennis Set to Begin on Friday
Raleigh, N.C. - The 2009-10 NC State women’s tennis team features a mix of seasoned veterans and new faces, with seniors Berkeley Brock and Daria Petrovic anchoring the Wolfpack heading into the spring. Also returning from last year’s squad are Lenka Hojckova, Diana Mortlock and Pender Sessoms. Sophomore Sandhya Nagaraj, ranked No. 45 in the country, will be competing for the Wolfpack for the first time, while transfer Ashley Miller will add quality depth to the roster. Three freshmen – Tana Illova, Sae Iwata and Chloe Smith – will be making their debut for the Pack.
With the fall season, the coaches start to get a feel for the team heading into January. While there isn’t team competition, the singles and doubles play is helpful in preparing the student-athletes for the spring.
“I think we got a chance to see the girls in a lot of competitive situations,” said head coach Hans Olsen. “They are a very talented group that has been working hard through the fall. They are learning a lot, and have shown good wins against good players. We’ve had some tough losses against good players as well, but overall a good fall as far as their development goes. I’m excited about this team.”
Olsen uses the fall to tinker with his lineups and see what teammates play better with each other. Their competition is a good indicator of what to expect moving forward.
“I think one of the strengths of our team is we have a lot of good players,” said Olsen. “We haven’t set anything as far as lineups. We’ve tried different matchups in doubles, just looking with how people gel with each other and communicate. Everybody at times has had great wins and built their confidence from that. We need to take all that we gained from the fall and take it forward into the spring.”
Brock and Petrovic bring depth and experience from their first three years. Petrovic was All-Atlantic Coast Conference in 2007, while Brock is 10 wins shy of being in the top five for most singles wins at NC State.
“Our expectations for our seniors, being co-captains, are they’re going to use their experience to lead this team into the spring season,” said Olsen. “They need to let that experience shine through the whole team with confidence and competitive intensity. These girls have been in the NCAA Tournament as a team and individually. They have played against the best teams in the country and won. They both have a lot of experience that they bring to the team and their leadership will be key for this year.”
Nagaraj used her first year at NC State to develop into a much-improved tennis player. Her hard work has been paying dividends on the court.
“Sandhya has taken each tournament and gotten back on the practice court to work on one or two specific things to improve for the next tournament,” said Olsen. “It has shown with her results. I think she has picked things up very well. Mentally she is much stronger than she was a year ago. The next step for her is to be able to control a match from start to finish against tougher competition, which I think she will.”
A pleasant surprise for the coaches has been Smith. Most important to Olsen, Smith finished the fall season on a positive note.
“Chloe finished strong at the UNC tournament against some solid opponents,” said Olsen. “She really came out and competed hard. She brought a lot of energy, which works for her. All of her matches throughout the fall were close. She had good wins against nationally ranked players earlier in the fall. In this last tournament, she was just decisive. It was a big confidence builder for her with the way she finished the fall. She really improved, especially with her volleys. It’s been a very good fall for her.”
Competing in the ACC is problematic for all 12 schools, but it has its advantages.
“The competition makes us tougher,” said Olsen. “When we get into those matches in the spring, our character is going to rise to the top. These girls will be very tough at that point in the year. We are looking forward to it.”
The Wolfpack open up spring play on Friday, Jan. 29 at 4:00 p.m. against East Carolina. They follow that with a 2:00 p.m. match on Saturday, Jan. 30 against Winthrop. Fans are asked to park in the West Lot off of Varsity Drive.