Season full of injuries, youth

After falling short in the MIAA Championship Tournament, Washburn University  ended its tennis play for the year.  While the Lady Blues consisted mainly of returning faces from the past year, the Ichabods had many new freshman players. Nevertheless, the freshmen played hard and never giving up while meeting the expectations of Head Coach Dave Alden.

“We won the matches we should have won,” said Alden.  “I was hopeful to be competitive in the match that I knew the other team would be a little more experienced.  I wanted to make sure the new guys I brought in could compete.”

Alden highlighted individual performances from the team including German Pascal Laucht, who surpassed expectations when moving from No. 4 to No. 2 singles and winning all three of his matches in a spring break tournament.

“As a freshman, to be able to do that at that level is phenomenal,” said Alden.

Also impressive was No. 1 singles player Arkadiusz Kozaczuk from Warsaw.

“[Kozaczuk] continued to get better as the semester progressed, realizing that he’s only been here one semester, where Pascal and these other guys have had a full two semesters under their belt, so his learning curve is a little bit steeper,” said Alden.

However, most impressive this season was Topekan Bobby Florence, who was not slated to compete in singles competition, yet went undefeated in conference play.

“He had an opportunity to step in and play and make the most of that opportunity,” said Alden.  “So that was a pleasant surprise for me and it was exciting to see him grow as the season progressed.”

While Alden would like to have won more this season, he has high hopes for the Ichabods in 2012.

“I think we’re ideally placed to be in competition next year for the conference championship,” said Alden.

One of the biggest blows to the Lady Blues for this season was the loss of Trang Le Nguyen, a top-40 singles player in the country from last year and team leader

“That’s not someone you easily replace,” said Alden.  “It was interesting to see how the team dynamics continued to evolve as the season progressed.”

The second hurdle for the Lady Blues to overcome was the injury of team captain Morgan Rainey over spring break, causing the team to move up one position.

Alden set three main goals for the season, win the regular season conference title, then the conference tournament, and go on to the NCAA tournament.  Ultimately, only the first goal was achieved.

“I’m very proud of that fact because we had to fight through injuries to do it,” said Alden.  “We weren’t healthy for a good portion of the year.