This article was originally published in ZU News.
Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams have high expectations for the season as they work on team chemistry before their first matches. Both teams will open against two NCAA Division II opponents to start the season on Feb. 2-3.
The women’s team will play Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at home on Feb. 2 before traveling to Redlands on Feb. 3. The men’s team will open up at home against Cal Tech on Feb. 3 before joining the women’s team at Redlands later that day.
Mark Bohren, the men’s and women’s tennis head coach, said that he expects big things from the team this year with many talented players.
“For both teams, we’re trying to do better than last year. The guys got to the quarters last year. The girls were in the middle of the PacWest. So we’re hoping to take each program one more step. I guess the guys would have to get to the semi’s to do better than last year. For the girls, making it to the final 16 would be really nice,” Bohren said. “At the beginning of the season we try to set our goals and play well and hopefully that feeds into our matches. Hopefully we get better each time we go out there. The guys and the girls support each other. That’s always challenging with tennis as an individual sport. We’ve got a lot of good players.”
Bohren did not place a lot of significance on the first two matches of the season.
“I’m just excited to see our guys and girls play somebody else other than each other,” Bohren said.
The women’s team has four freshmen this year, about half the team, while the men’s team has five. Bohren said that he expects the freshmen to get a fair amount of playing time.
“We try to give everyone some opportunities during the season. Sometimes some players aren’t great in practice but they are really great competitors in matches,” Bohren said. “We’ve got the makings of a really good team this year, so hopefully we’re able to do something with that.”
One of the returners on the men’s side is graduate student Oliver Frank. Frank was the DII national champion singles player last year. He came up just short in the fall from reclaiming that title, but he did become the DII double’s national champion with his partner Christian Schmid. Frank said he was very excited for the season.
“The team is looking really, really good. I feel like everybody stepped up their game over the fall. We definitely used our offseason to get prepared for the regular season. We’re all stoked for it. We can’t wait for our first match,” Frank said. “Compared to last year, I think we have a little more talent on the team, but it all comes down to having the grit to keep grinding hard for three months.”
Frank also didn’t put much emphasis on the first matches of the season.
“I haven’t played Cal Tech before, so I’m excited to play them, but the whole team is just excited to get out there and play. For the five freshmen on the team, this will be their first college match. I’m excited for them to see what college tennis looks like.”
Frank is a big part of why the men’s team finished the season ranked fifth in DII last season. He went 24-0 in his matches, only dropping two sets all season. The team will start the season still ranked fifth, but that isn’t the most important thing to Frank.
“I think last year we started the season ranked 13th or so and finished ranked fifth. That definitely shows that we’ve been working hard and we deserve to have such a high national ranking. This year we’ll get the reward of the hard work from last season,” Frank said. “We’re ranked high, but we don’t want to focus on that too much. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re ranked fifth, sixth, seventh or 15th, you’ve got to beat the top teams and that’s what we’re trying to do this year.”
Frank stated he wants to repeat last year’s success in going undefeated as a singles player. However, this goal is on the backburner.
“My personal goal is to go into every singles and doubles match and just win it, but overall it only matters if the team wins. My personal goals are secondary. The team comes first,” Frank said.
On the women’s side, senior co-captain Jackie Resler has her own goals for the team, including team bonding and chemistry.
“I try to make them grow as a player. I work on the mentality side, showing them how I see certain things. We have team bonding activities like going out to eat or watching movies, just to bring the team closer off the courts,” Resler said. “We have a lot of talented new girls. It’s basically like having a brand new team. Me and [fellow junior and teammate] Kara [Hinton] are working to make the team more like a team. We each have our own personalities and our own talents. Each of us brings something to the team. I’m really excited for this season. I can’t wait to see how these girls perform and how much they’ve improved since August.”
Unlike Frank and Bohren, Resler is excited for her first opponent of the season, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The Cougars lost 0-5 against them last season.
“It should be an interesting match. They’re one of the top schools in Division III,” Resler said. “I want to see how our girls play against them, where they’ve improved and what their strengths are. It will be my first time seeing the new girls play in a real match.”
For her personal goals, Resler said that she wants to play more aggressively with less lobs, and stay calm during the game.
“I’m here to be the best player I can be. As one of the captains, I try to keep my cool, not to get frustrated after some points,” Resler said.
After playing Redlands, the teams will have a week off before UC San Diego and Point Loma come to Azusa on Feb. 8-10.