FORT WAYNE – It’s the other way around in college tennis.
There is no spring training. That period comes in the fall, when the IPFW women’s tennis team packs its rackets and plays tournaments at Ball State and Bowling Green and Michigan State and Illinois. But for the most part, they don’t count.
These days, they count.
The Mastodons dropped their first two matches of the season before they defeated Evansville 5-2, and today at the Pine Ridge Racquet Club, they hope to even their record against visiting Valparaiso.
Once the weather breaks and the temperatures warm up to 50 degrees (an NCAA regulation), coach Eric Burns and his team will venture outside to continue the long season that will last until the April 26 Summit League championships. Where that is determined by who wins the regular season title.
Last year’s conference tournament was in Kansas City, Mo., where Oral Roberts downed IPFW 4-3 for the title and a berth into the NCAA tournament.
With Oral Roberts out of the league, Burns says IPFW – along with Missouri-Kansas City – is one of the favorites this season.
We’ve got three returning players, Burns said, naming seniors Caterina Kiefer and Anita Henestrosa, along with sophomore Marcy Huck. But we keep recruiting really hard and finding players. We’ve managed to do that.
While Henestrosa is the early No. 1 singles player, Burns said No. 2 can be bounced between Kiefer and freshman Kristine Lindal. From there, the parts are also easily interchangeable between Huck, junior Miloslava Shustova and sophomore Theresa Neumeyr.
What this team has, over the teams of the past, is we’ve got a little more depth throughout the lineup, Burns said. We don’t have a real dominant player at one (singles) like Amy (Recht), but we’ve got good depth.
Led by Recht, the four-time Summit League Player of the Year, the 2010-11 Mastodons posted a 27-4 record, went 8-0 in the conference and tore through the conference tournament before it was beaten by Northwestern in the NCAA tourney.
Will they live up to the expectations of that team? Burns said of this season’s team. They’re definitely talented enough.
Athletes of note
Trine senior Eli Larson was named d3wrestle.com/WWSport.com Wrestler of the Week. Larson, the No. 2 seed, won five matches to capture the 157-pound title at the recent Pete Wilson Wheaton Invitational. With a 23-2 record, he is the top-ranked 157-pounder in NCAA Division III. Stacia Murray (Elmhurst) was among four from Indiana Tech who were named WHAC indoor track and field athletes of the week. Murray won the triple jump at the recent Mastodon Invitational at IPFW with a distance of 11.83 meters. She is ranked No. 1 this season in the NAIA in the triple jump. Other Tech athletes cited were Nick Radionoff, Katelyn Lewis and Darryl Marlow.