Different paths land senior and freshman in Women’s Tennis finals

Marissa Lewis, then a freshman, returns a ball across the court during an April 2012 practice at the Webster Groves Tennis Center. PHOTO BY VICTORIA CASWELL.
Marissa Lewis, then a freshman, returns a ball across the court during an April 2012 practice at the Webster Groves Tennis Center. PHOTO BY VICTORIA CASWELL.

The first scheduled event in the athletic season should be the first one to finish, but for the Webster Women’s Tennis team, it did not work out that way.

The St. Louis College of Pharmacy Invitational was scheduled for the first weekend of September, but the tournament still does not have a champion.

Despite all of these unknowns, one thing was decided; the champion will play for Webster, because Senior Marissa Lewis and Freshman Monica Behrle advanced to the finals of the tournament.

“I had high expectations for them to perform well,” said Women’s Head Tennis Coach Martha Davis-Goldstein. “Did I expect them to make it to the finals? I wasn’t expecting it, but I didn’t know our competition.”

The two-day tournament, which involved Principia and two colleges Webster had never competed against, St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Brescia University, was affected by rain, shortening the first day of play and delaying the second day due to a large thunderstorm.

On the second day of play, Behrle, who still hasn’t lost any of her six singles matches at Webster, and Lewis, who currently is on a 16 singles match win streak, won opposite sides of the bracket. But as the day turned to night they decided to play the game later.

“We were like, ‘Well we are just going to do our singles match on our terms,’ since the park was closing,” Lewis said.

When they finally play, they will not only be coming from different sides of the bracket, but different points in their tennis careers.

Since coming to Webster in 2011, little has stayed the same for Lewis. The availability of her intended educational certification, her home and even the school she attended have changed over the past four years, yet her game has remained a constant.

After she received her recruitment letter from then head coach Mike Siener during her senior year at Owasso High School in Owasso, Okla., Lewis chose Webster for several reasons.

“It helped that my grandparents lived like 30 minutes away, so I wanted to live by them,” Lewis said, “and I was told that [Webster] was getting a sports management certificate.”

These all impacted her decision, but one thing sealed her decision, the ability to play tennis.

“I really wanted to play tennis, like I had to play tennis,” Lewis said, “so when I saw they had a team it was just perfect.”

In her first season, Lewis joined a team with the three most successful players in the program’s history. Allison and Paige Tungate — the first and third winningest players in school history — were seniors and Lindsey Hayes — the second winningest player in history – was a junior. Lewis said the older members of the team were good examples of how to succeed on the court, but they helped her beyond that.

“They were good influences, and pushed me to be better,” Lewis said. “I always tried to stay up with them, and in general life, I just looked up to them.”

In what was supposed to be her sophomore season, Lewis transferred to Tusculum College in Tusculum, Tenn., while the athletic business administration certificate program at Webster was in a limbo stage. She played just a few matches at Tusculum College before returning Webster for the 2013-14 season.

After a 5-11 season, which she described as a learning season, Lewis is looking to build on her 16-match winning streak in her senior season.

Despite being the top player and senior she feels like she does not need to take a leadership role during her final season.

“I feel like they’re all my babies, but I feel like everyone on the team has taken a lead or role for the team,” Lewis said. “So, I’m just trying to be the best that I can be for them, and set a good example.”

And one of the people she is setting an example for is Behrle, who is just starting her history at Webster.

Behrle, who is from Atlanta, found out about Webster from a family friend, and decided on the school after making her official visit last year. She played with Lewis during her visit, and she has adjusted to college life off the court with Lewis’ help.

“She is just one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” Behrle said. “My roommate is gone a lot, so she lets me come over to her apartment and just hang out with her and her roommate and she’s just a blessing.”

Behrle has played as Lewis’ doubles partner in one tournament during the fall part of their season, which left Lewis impressed.

“She’s fearless, she comes up with these shots that are just insane,” Lewis said.

Behrle said she wants to improve her shots, consistency and confidence, but in her short time at Webster, she has already earned the confidence of her coach.

“She’s a grinder out there, and I have full confidence in her when she’s on the court,” said Davis-Goldstein

As for the conclusion of the season’s first tournament, the two are still trying to match up schedules and waiting for Lewis to recover from a back injury. Lewis just hopes the championship match will come before they start their spring season.

“I just hope we play before the year is over,” Lewis said.

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