No. 25 Bods primed for third MIAA title run

Service slam Senior Nathan Martin practices his serve on Washburn’s tennis courts. Martin lost in the third round of the 2007 ITA North Central Regional Tournament last semester 6-1, 6-1 to Nebraska-Kearney’s William Jacome.

Nathan Miller

The Bods tennis team controls its own destiny this year. After winning two straight MIAA championships the only thing that can stop it from securing a third is itself.

“We have a very good team that has bonded well and understands how each other thinks,” said junior Drew Hanson. “We virtually have the same people that won both titles, but the issue is there are other good teams like Northwest Missouri and Southwest Baptist.”

The Bods are ranked No. 25 in the country and No. 2 in the North Central Region behind No. 22 Southwest Baptist. Baptist will be the main hurdle to the Bods’ road to a championship. But Baptist was much more than a hurdle just three years ago. In 2005-2006 the Bods recorded their first win over Baptist during head coach Jennifer Hastert’s era and a significant win in school history versus the Bearcats.

“Not much has changed here in four years,” said senior Nathan Martin. “We’ve always had good players. We just needed some confidence. I knew coming in as a freshman how good Baptist was and that first win was really what got our confidence going.”

But the tables have turned in the Washburn-Southwest Baptist series, as the Bods have owned the series 2-1 the past two years. The turnaround can mostly be credited to this year’s class of four seniors, who have seen the best and worst in Washburn tennis.

This year’s seniors failed to qualify for the regional tournament their freshman year, fell in the regional final their sophomore year and were ousted after the first round of the NCAA national tournament by Hawaii Pacific 5-1 last year. Now the Bods look not only to return to the national tournament but also make a run while they are in Houston, Texas.

“We want to win a couple more rounds this year,” said Hanson. “It was great to make it last year but we saw the competition and realized we are not that far off. The match we had last year could have gone either way.”

Preparation for the big dance will be extensive this year as they play No. 5 Drury, No. 10 Rollins and No. 13 Florida Southern on the road and host No. 22 Baptist and No. 31 Northwest Missouri.

“We’ve taken some big steps the last couple years and to take another one we know we’re going to have to play some top teams to break the top 10,” said Martin. “A top 10 ranking is our goal this year.”

The Bods will open the season with a road trip to Division I school Wichita State Feb. 18. The Shockers finished the season 10-8 last year and are 1-0 so far this year with a 7-0 victory over the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“They are the toughest team we have played in my four years,” said Martin. “We are really excited to get a chance to play a team like that.

“All six guys are really good, but we have guys that can hang with them and we have nothing to lose.”