The Marquette women’s tennis team will start its season by hosting the 37th annual Milwaukee Tennis Classic this weekend.
With the departure of three seniors from last year’s squad and the addition of four freshmen to the roster, inexperience will no doubt present a challenge this season.
Coach Jody Bronson, however, feels that the Golden Eagles’ youth will actually give them an advantage uncommon to most rosters.
“We’re going to have the exact same team for two years, which is very unusual,” Bronson said. “In the same respect, I think the other big plus that we have is that our sophomores this year were fabulous leaders last year as freshmen. While most people would think, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re not going to have leadership, they’re too young’, I feel that these sophomores are as good as any seniors as far as leadership goes.”
As a junior, Rocio Diaz will be Marquette’s most experienced player and believes the freshmen have already shown great capability at picking up their play quickly.
“In the beginning as a freshman, it’s hard to adapt to all of these new rules that you have, but these fall tournaments are going to help them earn experience,” Diaz said.
Sophomore Ali Dawson is also impressed with the rookies and said they display a good variety of different styles of play. Like Bronson, Dawson is excited to have the opportunity to play alongside the same faces two years in a row.
“We’re all really young and we’ll be together for a couple of years, and I think it’s a great opportunity to really just develop as a team,” Dawson said. “I think it will create a really good environment, and it makes us kind of unique.”
Bronson said the strong freshman presence on the team will not excuse any expectations this season, as she doesn’t want to ever have a reason to not perform in any certain year.
“We have a lot of talent on this team, and it’s going to come down to how we decide to use that talent and how smart we are going to be,” Bronson said. “It’s not just about hitting balls. It’s going to have a lot to do with our strategy and how our younger players respond to certain adverse situations.”
Bronson did point out one area of concern that will only be hammered out with repetition and practice: “Doubles are going to be a challenge with four new players in the mix, and it’s going to take some practice and some matches to put solid combinations together.”
While the Classic may be a home tournament, the Golden Eagles will find themselves in unfamiliar territory as they have little to no experience against Xavier and Detroit.
“We don’t know very much about Xavier — we haven’t competed against them in a long time,” Bronson said. “We (hardly) compete against Detroit … so they’re both going to give us a new look that we really aren’t familiar with.”
Western Michigan, on the other hand, presents a challenge that Bronson knows all too well and one potentially greater than the other two teams.
“We’ve seen a lot of Western Michigan, so I think the two of us really try to strategize with our players since we both know each other’s teams very well,” Bronson said. “In that sense, (Western Michigan) could be the tougher battle since both sides know the other’s coaches and players and what they want to do against them.”
Doubles play begins for the Golden Eagles Friday at 1 p.m. against the Musketeers, while the team’s first single round will be at 3 p.m. that same day at The Town Club in Fox Point, Wis.