While Washburn tennis expects to be more than competitive, experience will be the resounding theme for both the teams and the coach this season.
For the men’s team, two seniors and five juniors complete the roster with what coach David Alden calls a “very accomplished team.”
“We’re very deep this year,” said Alden. “This might be the deepest team that Washburn has ever had, and I look for that experience to really come through in many matches.”
With individual skills and experience already developed, Alden hopes to give players a more team-oriented focus for the season.
“Historically, Washburn has always played great doubles,” said Alden. “So for the men’s team, our biggest focus is trying to develop that team spirit and get the chemistry down as early as possible so we can continue that success.”
As for women’s tennis, Alden is starting with a brand new team this season. Six freshmen and one junior-college transfer comprise this year’s roster.
“We’re very talented, but we’re very young,” said Alden. “I expect us to start off pretty well and only get better.”
Throughout the season, Alden hopes to focus on getting his players used to competing at the college level.
“I’m just trying to guide them along through their growth process so by the time we get to our conference tournament, we’ve got enough experience that we can perform at the level that we are capable of,” Alden said.
A change in regions will also be a new experience for both teams this season. Last year, the teams played their regional matches against schools from the Rocky Mountain Athletic and North Central conferences. With the switch in regions, Washburn will now play teams from the Heartland and Lone Star conferences, which are comprised of teams from Oklahoma and Texas.
“Historically those conferences are very, very strong,” said Alden. “But, by playing tough matches early, by the time you get into your conference matches, you’re match tested.”
As the new head coach for both men’s and women’s tennis, Alden also brings his own experience to the Washburn tennis program. Before taking the position, Alden coached men’s and women’s tennis and was assistant athletic director at Metro State University in Denver, Colo. In his five seasons as head coach, he led the men’s team to three consecutive NCAA Regional Tournaments and back-to-back RMAC Tournament championships.
While he experienced a great deal of success at Metro State, the opportunity to coach at Washburn was one that Alden couldn’t pass up.
“Overall, the institutional and community support for athletics, especially tennis in particular, has a good reputation at Washburn,” said Alden.
In addition, Alden enjoys being able to coach men’s and women’s tennis without having to worry about the extra jobs associated with the assistant athletic director position.
“Here, I feel like I have the luxury of just being able to focus on my passion, which is coaching,” said Alden. “I get to focus on being the best coach I can be without being pulled in different directions.”
Overall, Alden believes that after the success of former coach Jennifer Hastert, his biggest challenge will be to continue the legacy that she left at Washburn and to live up to the expectations set for him. But more than anything, Alden hopes his team will live up to the expectations he has set for them.
“The focus has always been on going in and competing and getting the best results possible,” said Alden. “Our first step is to win the conference tournament and then see how far we can take it from there.”