Tennis teams continue to improve

Luke Warnken

What’s crazy about college athletics is that there is no such thing as an offseason.

Unlike high school sports where one sport transitions into the other for many young athletes, college athletes are constantly playing one sport trying to perfect their craft. Washburn’s men’s and women’s tennis teams will play a good chunk of their season in the spring, but that doesn’t meant they can’t use the fall as a time to develop.

Both tennis teams kicked off their fall season at home on Sept. 7 with the Washburn Invitational. The women’s team is looking to rebuild after losing a gigantic portion of last year’s team. Six incoming freshmen must look to fill the void. Luckily for the inexperienced Lady Blues, they were able to get their feet wet two weekends in a row. On Sept. 14 the Lady Blues and Ichabods traveled to Salina for the Bethany Invitational. Dave Alden, head coach of both the men and women’s teams, was pleasantly surprised with how both his teams did.

“I was actually really happy,” said Alden. “We just need a lot of matches to get experience.”

What makes the fall season good for gaining experience is that the format is different than that of the spring season. Instead of having ranked singles and doubles teams playing only one match against an opponent, the invitationals of the fall are tournament based with the concept win and play on. It may be tiring for the players, but it allows for plenty of game experience.

“Overall it’s a good platform for us to stop off and try,” said Alden.

The Bods and Blues squared off with teams from Emporia State University, Rockhurst University, Bethany College and others. The men’s team was able to garnish some success on the doubles side with juniors Steven Fletcher and Arkadiusz Kozaczuk winning their bracket.

“Ark and Steven won their doubles draw against a Bethany team that was really good,” said Alden.

Fletcher and fellow junior Bobby Florence both won the singles B draw semifinals. Redshirt freshman Jake Long was able to win a lower singles draw tournament.

“He (Long), did what he needed to do and played well,” said Alden. “The guys certainly played better. We got the opportunity to get used to the speed of the game again.”

The women’s side, although young, did manage to put up a fight. Junior Sophie O’Neill and sophomore Casyn Buchman reached the finals of the A bracket in as a doubles team. The Blues duo was not able to come away with the victory, but it was a sign of good things to come.

“People forget Casyn is only a sophomore,” said Alden. “Sophie’s the oldest person on the team and she still has room to grow.”

Freshman Jodie Blackim made it to the semifinals of the B draw while another freshman, Gwendolyn Shepler advanced to the semis of the C draw.

“Every time they go out they get better because they’re so young,” said Alden. “they’re getting exposure they just never had before. We keep seeing things and even we when we don’t play well we see things from a coaching standpoint that we need to work on.”

Both teams will look to continue to improve this upcoming weekend, Sept. 21, as they travel to Springfield, Mo., for the ITA Tennis Regional.

“It’s a long tournament,” said Alden. “It’s a grind. Hopefully we will have people playing in the quarters, but it’s a hard draw.”

Washburn will get a chance to see teams like Bethany again as they continue to prepare for a long spring season.

“Lots of things have to fall in place to win this tournament,” said Alden. “If Ark and Steven play the way they did last weekend they can play with anybody. On the girl’s side my expectations are to just go in and get a lot of experience.”