Webster University’s women’s tennis team has a huge test this week when it takes on conference rival Westminster College in Fulton on March 22.
The Gorloks will be looking for revenge against Westminster. Last season in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament, the Blue Jays defeated the Gorloks 5-4, ending Webster’s season.
The players who returned this year are still mad about last year’s loss to Westminster, coach Michael Siener said. Siener thinks his team is ready for this key matchup.
“The girls returning are still bitter about that loss last season in the tournament, so, yeah, I think they would say they are looking forward to it,” Siener said. “I look at it as just another match on the schedule. As long as we are all on the same page and pulling together, we should be able to do great things to finish up the season.”
Freshman Mackenzie Wilder didn’t experience the loss to the Blue Jays last season, but she is ready to compete against one of the top teams in the conference.
“I’m excited to play them — this will really be our first challenge as a team together,” Wilder said. “To beat Westminster, we really need to be patient and yet aggressive at the right times.”
Wilder said to beat any quality team in or outside of the SLIAC, strong play in doubles is always key. Doubles play will be particularly important in the contest against the Blue Jays. The Gorloks would like to set the tone early and win all three doubles matchups.
“I’m confident in our doubles teams, and I feel that if we can get off to a strong 3-0 lead, then that will add some confidence to singles,” Wilder said.
During spring break, the Gorloks had two matches to prepare themselves for the Westminster match. On March 7, Webster defeated Fontbonne University 9-0. On March 10, the Gorloks beat Stephens College 8-1. Both matches were played at Webster Groves Tennis Center.
Against Fontbonne, freshmen Lauren Hacker, Marissa Lewis, Kathleen Kennedy and Wilder each had solid victories in singles play, as did seniors Allison Tungate and Paige Tungate. In doubles action, all three Webster teams dominated their matches.
“I feel that performance-wise, I did well,” Wilder said. “I worked on what coach Siener had wanted me to do, such as slices, and really just being patient and passing balls.”
In the nonconference matchup against Stephens, Siener shook up the Gorloks’ lineup to give different players an opportunity to play tougher competition. Allison Tungate and Paige Tungate, who typically play No. 1 and 2 singles, played 4 and 5, respectively. Lewis and junior Lindsey Hays played at the No. 1 and 2 spots.
Paige Tungate won her 10th singles match of the season while Hays improved to 8-1. The Gorloks swept the doubles competition. Siener was pleased his athletes were team-first players.
“The girls played extremely well again,” Siener said. “It was nice to be able to shake up the lineup when we play a nonconference school. I have to give credit to the great group of girls that I have.
“They all have been excellent team players and have really bought into the team dynamic this season. It doesn’t matter where they all play; they are just out there to win at whatever spot. Both wins were solid efforts from the entire roster.”