Several members of the Webster University women’s tennis team have distinguished themselves this year out on the court. However, it has sometimes been a struggle to field the necessary number of players to be on the court at all.
Twice this year the team has been forced to default matches because they have not had enough players to compete against the opposition. The first instance occurred March 17 against Maryville University, when Webster was forced to default on multiple matches. The second was April 4 against Missouri Baptist University, when the Gorloks defaulted a doubles match. Webster lost 5-1 that night .
On April 6, Webster bounced back to defeat St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) conference rivals, Blackburn, 8-1. Junior Marissa Lewis and sophomore Kaylen Kress won their number-one doubles match 8-2 according to a Webster Athletics article. Webster improved to 2-6 on the season.
This is Martha Davis’ first year as head coach of the women’s team after three seasons as an assistant. She said there are some difficulties with having such a small squad.
“Overall I think the team is doing well,” Davis said. “(Having only seven players) makes it challenging sometimes, and it affects us in matches. But the team as a whole is doing well.”
Several tennis players have stopped playing all together or missed matches due to obligations with their jobs or schoolwork.
Junior Kathleen Kennedy was only able to join the squad on March 29 against Greenville, which was a 5-4 loss.
“I’ve just been super busy,” Kennedy said. “I just got a job, and I’ve been busy working and doing schoolwork, but I’ve tried to make it to the conference matches – and for conference matches, we’ve had a full team.”
In Webster’s 5-1 defeat against Missouri Baptist, junior and designated number-one, Lewis, helped secure Webster’s one victory along with her doubles partner, Kress.
“Marissa (Lewis) and Kaylen (Kress) are having a great season. They’re very strong, and they’ve been our best two players,” Davis said.
Lewis left Webster last year for Tusculum College in Greenville, Tenn. because Webster was not going to offer a sports management degree. However, she was not totally satisfied with her new college.
“Tusculum College was kind of far out, and when I found out that Webster was getting a sports business program (a certificate), it was kind of perfect. I missed St. Louis, I missed Webster, so it just kind of worked out perfectly,” Lewis said.
Lewis won the SLIAC Player of the Week honor for the week of March 31. She went undefeated against Blackburn College in Webster’ first victory of the season, according to a Webster Athletics article. She recorded six wins overall that week.
“I think I played really well. (It was) probably one of my better days,” Lewis said.
As an NCAA Division III school, Webster is not allowed to award athletic scholarships. Nevertheless, Davis anticipates at least three new recruits for the tennis team next year. In addition, none of the players on the squad this year are set to graduate. But Webster will have to carry on this year with seven players.
“I think it definitely has been a problem. We’re all committed, but as we get older, it’s hard to make that full commitment when you have to start looking for internships and jobs,” Kennedy said. “I think if we had more players on the team, that would improve our numbers a lot.”
Davis is optimistic as the Gorloks continue in SLIAC play and has nothing but praise for her players.
“They’ve been great, very understanding. Everyone has a great attitude, and I couldn’t be any prouder of them,” Davis said.
Lewis echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“I don’t think it’s a problem (having only seven players). When we show up, we’re there to play, and we’re there to win,” Lewis said.
Webster will play next against Principia College at 6 p.m. on April 10 at Blackburn Park.