After taking last fall off, the Webster University men’s and women’s tennis teams are once again playing fall matches this year, and both teams are ready to build on the strong seasons they had in the spring of 2011.
“We have played in the fall in the past and did not do it last year, so this is a great opportunity for my teams to get ready for the spring SLIAC season,” said Michael Siener, men’s and women’s tennis coach. “A lot of other good teams have done this, and we are now in that category as a very good team.
“We have a lot of new players and they are very talented kids. Playing these kids in the fall will help us get to know what we have and get them exposure.”
The women are playing a nine-match schedule, while the men have five matches this fall against some tough competition.
“We are playing teams we could not normally schedule in the spring that are very good, including Aurora, Millikin and Elmhurst,” Siener said. “It is easy to schedule tough teams in the fall because this is when some leagues have their season.”
Siener said it is not a preseason or practice schedule, and all of the matches count. He added it is basically a split season with matches in the fall and spring.
Junior Lindsey Hays leads the talented women’s team, which finished second in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the spring season of 2011. Hays was an All-Conference first team selection in singles and an All-Conference second team pick in doubles. She won 17 consecutive matches in the spring. Other returning players are seniors Kate Coen, Paige Tungate and Allison Tungate.
“I don’t mind playing the nine matches this fall,” Hays said. “It’s a good change of pace, and we have a ton of new girls, so it will help a lot to play.”
Hays is referring to the six talented freshman players that were recruited from all over the country. The group consists of women from Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Texas and Illinois.
“We recruited 20 to 30 girls and wound up with the six we have,” Siener said. “All the girls come from high school programs where either the girls were All-Conference, All-Region or played in their state tournament.”
Hays said the new women are outstanding players and are already equal to what the team has in terms of ability.
“I’ve been with these freshmen a lot; we are going to be really deep,” Hays said. “The balance is great on this team. Everyone is so equal.”
Siener deserves credit for recruiting this top-notch class. He sent out hundreds of recruitment letters.
“I received a school recruitment letter from coach Siener, and I was overwhelmed after I visited Webster,” freshman Kathleen Kennedy said. “It was all about the team and there was a great atmosphere at Webster.”
The women hope to improve on their 9-4 overall record and 5-1 conference record from the spring.
Siener points out that although the women are much stronger this fall, the men’s team will be talented as well.
“The men will be as good as, or better than, last year, and I am as excited about the men as I am about the women,” Siener said. “We return our top three players and hope to get breakout seasons from juniors Dustin Thode and Wakeel Rahman.”
Those three returning players are juniors Agustin Villalba, Diego Alarcon and Ricky Eaves. Another person who is returning to the team after a five-year absence is junior Alex Magrath, a former No. 1 Webster player.
“If Alex can play in the top three, we will be a lot stronger,” Siener said. “We’ll have to see where he fits in.”
Freshmen Josh Papes and Carlton Poindexter both played at McCluer North High School in Florissant last year and qualified for state as a doubles team their senior year. Siener expects them to contribute right away.
The men had an overall record of 13-6 and a conference record of 4-1 last spring. Siener said having two talented teams can cause some problems with playing time, but he sees it as an advantage.
“I hope to get a lot of people involved because we are so strong,” Siener said. “But we want to win first, so we’ll make sure we put out the six that give us the best chance to win. To get playing time will be competitive, so we’ll have to see how it shakes out.”
Both teams get the fall season started this week when they play Maryville University at 6 p.m. on Sept. 8 at the Webster Groves Tennis Center.