The 2013 Webster University women’s tennis team will have to overcome the loss of four players from a team that won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title last season.
Last year’s freshmen Lauren Hacker and Marissa Lewis — who were both part of Webster’s top six in 2012 — transferred from Webster, while senior twins Allison Tungate and Paige Tungate graduated. But Webster still has six players returning this season who helped contributed to the conference championship last year.
“I think we’ll do really well,” sophomore Mackenzie Wilder said. “Even though there is not as many of us this year, we all have a lot of heart and determination — and definitely a lot of fight. I think that will really prevail and that we’ll still do pretty well this year.”
Wilder said she thinks the loss of players will make the Gorloks a better overall team. She said it will require the freshmen to step up and shine, while the upperclassmen will need to be role models and help guide the new players.
The Gorloks will add incoming freshmen to their roster this year: Tia Hewuse, Kaylen Kress and Rebekka Lancaster. Of the freshman class, coach Michael Siener expects Kress to have the biggest impact on the team because of her strokes and serves. Kress was a Wisconsin high school state qualifier in doubles play. However, Siener also thinks Hewuse and Lancaster will challenge for the sixth spot.
“Those three will factor in as freshmen,” Siener said. “Everybody else that will factor in the playing time are returners — most of which are sophomores except for Lindsey (Hays). (The three freshmen are a) good young nucleus to build on for the future.”
Siener said the one main difference with this team compared to the ones he’s had in previous seasons is the youth. This season, Hays is not just the lone senior, but also the only upperclassmen. Siener couldn’t recall a time he coached a team with all freshmen and sophomores with the exception of one player.
“We probably have as good a leader in Lindsey (Hays) as we’ve ever had,” Siener said. “As far as a girl that is going to play No. 1 and lead by example — very positive attitude (and) great student.”
Siener said Principia College (Ill.) Panthers are the conference favorite headed into the 2013 season. The Panthers’ No. 1 player from last season will now be No. 3 as Principia returns its top two players who did not play in 2012. Yet, Wilder believes the Gorloks’ young team can pull through against the conference’s best.
“It’s going to be all about being consistent, and not being emotionally reactive or being timid or nervous,” Wilder said. “We need to go in there (Principia) with confidence and know that we beat them last year and we can do it again. Nothing has changed — and I feel like that will be the most important thing.”
Siener believes if his team continues to work hard and get better, they will have a good chance to play for the conference championship again. It would be Webster’s second title in two years if the Gorloks are able to pull it off.
“I think we definitely could (win conference), as long as we just stay confident and stay as a team,” Wilder said. “We have some little things that we need to work on, but I think once we can kind of iron out those kinks we will definitely be well-rounded and good.”
The Gorloks were scheduled to start the season against Maryville University on March 2, but the game was postponed due to weather. Webster’s next match is Thursday, March 7 versus Lindenwood University-Belleville (Ill.) at 6 p.m. at the Webster Groves Tennis Center.