Lady Blues get their first taste of action at Washburn Invitational

Line of sight Lady Blues senior Amber Randl returns a volley during the Washburn Invitational. The meet took place Friday and Saturday but won’t count in the standings because it was not an ITA event.

Nathan Miller

To return five seniors from a team that finished last year’s regular season undefeated, one would think expectations would be higher than ever. However with the absence of four-year leader Julie Huyberechts on the court, the Lady Blues tennis team has some questions to answer.

“It’s going to be hard,” said Dianna Goldsmith, senior co-captain. “We don’t intend to replace her. We think she has done a really good job and just hope to continue on what she has built. Julie was incredible and now she is showing us the ropes as assistant coach.”

Huyberechts along with last year’s ITA regional coach of the year, Jennifer Hastert, watched the Lady Blues take to the court for the first time this past weekend in the Washburn Invitational. The invitational was not ITA sanctioned and thus did not count but it gave the coaches an opportunity to switch up the lineups.

“This tournament is what the fall season is all about,” said Hastert. “It’s an opportunity for coaches to mix their singles and doubles lineups up, to give them an opportunity to see them play and it gets the players a lot of match play experience.”

With the absence of Huyberechts, each Lady Blue has to move up a spot in the singles lineup to fill the No. 2 spot. Other senior co-captain Amber Raindl explains the team has to pull together.

“Julie was a very strong player at two, so we all have to move up the line,” said Raindl. “We all know we can do it but we have to come together as a team and encourage each other. We have a new team but we have just as much talent as last year and we have to take that attitude into every match.”

Last year’s team finished the regular season 17-0 but came up short in both the MIAA tournament final and the regional final, leaving the Lady Blues exhausted and filled with a sense of disappointment.

“Last year we were disappointed to do what we did and then in the end not execute,” said Goldsmith. “I think we were exhausted at the same time with all the competition.”

But with five seniors the Lady Blues want success more than ever this year.

“I feel a lot more comfortable to know that there is four other people also graduating,” said Raindl. “We all know each other are going through our last year and we want to make the best of it. We have a lot more drive to do our best this year and finish strong. It’s nice to have four other girls that want to be leaders on the team.”

The seniors will have the task of integrating the two newcomers, Rachel Stevens from North Hill, Texas, and local Shawnee Heights product Kate Taylor.

“The seniors bring a lot of experience to the team, to show the freshmen what its all about,” said Goldsmith. “We’re really excited to have the freshmen. They come in with a new technique and they can really teach us something.”