RIO GRANDE VALLEY – With five newcomers on a 12-person roster, the fall season will be crucial for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s women’s tennis team to build camaraderie, stamina and individual abilities.
“We’re trying to assess where everyone’s at and learn about each other, get doubles team chemistry and figure out new combinations, and share our culture with the new players,” head coach West Nott said. “Our team hit the ground running from the first day. The newcomers are quick learners and the existing players improved a lot over the summer so we’re in a good spot right now.”
The Vaqueros “hit the ground running” in a literal sense because they use the fall season to push themselves physically. They do conditioning at the start of every practice and work hard in the weight room to build strength. Nott likes to challenge the team early in the year and he’s been happy to see them rising to it so far.
“We definitely push harder in the fall,” Nott said. “On the court we do some pretty aggressive drilling that’s pretty explosive so that usually wears a lot of people out. We’re trying to build their stamina and see if we can mentally focus all the way through. I’m really impressed with this group.”
Senior Stefanie Wilske and junior Lea Karren are two student-athletes stepping up as the vocal leaders, always there to lift spirits when practices get tough and energy is low. But Nott praised all seven of the returning players for the strides they’ve made and the example they’re setting for the newcomers.
Junior Isabelle Bahr and sophomore Marjorie Souza return after holding down the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the lineup last year. They’ll be representing UTRGV at the ITA Regionals in Fort Worth from Sept. 22-24. The whole squad will compete at the Texas State Invitational and the UIW Cardinal Classic, both in October.
Nott and the Vaqueros are excited for fall competitions to begin so they can continue evaluating and improving their games in preparation for big things in the spring.
“Izzy is hitting 5-10 miles per hour harder, it seems, and she’s moving more explosively. Marjorie beefed up her strength in the past year and her serve, really her overall game, has improved. They’re hitting more accurate. They ‘re hungry to compete against the big schools in that first event,” Nott said. “The next tournament for the rest of the group will be against a lot of mid-major programs that we compete against like Tarleton, Texas State, Incarnate Word, so I think that will be a good litmus test for where they’re all at .
“The great thing is, we don’t have to discuss attitude and work ethic because they already have those intangibles. We’re talking the nuts and bolts of strategy, how and why we do certain drills, how to make better decisions on the short,” Nott said. “It’s making my job easy that they’re so hungry and self-motivated. They want it really bad.”
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