For the past two years the Ichabods tennis team would have been happy just to make it to nationals. But with all top six players returning from last year’s team, just a trip is no longer enough.
“Just being there isn’t good enough anymore,” said Andrew Plum, senior. “This year we want to take a big step forward and win a round or two. We feel that good about the guys we have here.”
The two-time defending MIAA champions earned a trip to the Sweet 16 in Altamonte, Fla., but were done after the first round, falling to Hawaii-Pacific 1-5.
“The guys saw down there that we were maybe just short one guy,” said Jennifer Hastert, head coach. “Now we have the addition of maybe two that can help us. The goal this year is not only to make it to nationals but to see if we can make it all the way.”
The addition of JUCO transfer Ruben Mora and freshmen Christophe Beneteau and John Ferguson this year leave Hastert the room to switch up the roster a bit. The first doubles and singles lineups were tried this past weekend at the Washburn Invitational. The Bods competed against such teams as Northwest Missouri State and Barton County Community College, but the event was not ITA sanctioned and thus did not count.
“They’re solid,” said Plum. “You can never go wrong with having too much depth. It will be a semester long process to figure out where everybody fits but we know in the end, we will be very talented and be able to compete with anybody in the country.”
Plum is one of four seniors on the team who has been a part of the program all four years. But Plum explains everybody on the team has the ability to be a leader on any given day.
“I think 1-8, we have leaders,” said Plum. “There are going to be some days where one guy is going to be able to lead more than the next. But that’s what makes our team so special, the fact that we all get a long so well. If somebody wants to fill that role that day than we feel confident anybody can get it done.”
The Bods will continue fall play against Baker Wednesday and finish the week participating in the Bethany Invitational. Even though most fall play doesn’t count, Hastert says the more match play the Bods get in, the better.
“We play a lot of individual tournaments,” said Hastert. “But they need to approach each tournament like it’s the spring season. We need as much match play as we can to get prepared.”
Even though the Bods are focused on achieving more at nationals, they haven’t forgotten about their responsibility to defend the conference championship. Even without the new comers, the Bods would have been the favorite to win it for the third year in a row.
“In our mind there isn’t any reason we shouldn’t defend, but we also have to keep in mind what the other teams bring to the table,” said Brad Johnston, senior. “We don’t know what Southwest Baptist has, and we kind of know what Northwest has. But will just have to wait to see and play our best.”