The Gustavus women’s tennis team is set to defend its 2010 MIAC Title with a new look in the singles competition due to the graduation of number-one and five singles players Sierrra Krebsbach and Ali O’Neal. The Gusties return three All-Conference performers from last season’s squad in seniors Sam Frank (Mahtomedi, Minn.) and Marianne Barau (Glencoe, Minn.), and junior Megan Gaard (Edina, Minn.). The Gusties fell 5-0 to Williams in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships last season, finishing the season 33-10 overall and 10-0 in the MIAC.
“We had as good of fall as we have ever had. The girls are really excited for the spring season to see what they can do as a team,” said Head Coach Jon Carlson on his squads start. “The fall has a tendency to be all about individuals, and the spring is all about what teams can do together.”
Sam Frank will likely move up one spot to take over the #1 singles responsibilities. Last season Frank was 16-16 overall with a 9-1 record against MIAC opponents. Frank, a two-time All-Conference performer in singles, is coming off the best fall season of her career. Frank won the singles title at the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional and advanced to the ITA Small College Championships. Frank finished runner-up at the tournament, earning ITA All-America honors and becoming the first Gustavus women’s tennis player to advance to the championship match of the ITA Small College Championships.
Marianne Barau and Megan Gaard will be expected to fill in the remaining top-three spots. Barau finished the 2010 season 26-7 in singles, while Gaard went 23-5. Barau and Gaard will also look to pick up where they left off in the doubles competition, finishing the season with a 26-5 record last year. The duo also enters the 2011 season with some momentum after winning doubles title in the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional this fall.
The Gustavus women’s tennis team is in a transition year in terms of leadership, which is an area that Carlson feels his upperclassmen have really stepped up in. “Frank, Barau, and Gaard have done a great job in the area of leadership,” said Carlson. “The team is more together and more focused than we have been at the start of seasons past. They are all working hard and looking to work harder to improve and be ready for our big competitions in the spring.”
Junior Alex Erickson will look to fill the #4 singles spot as the other top returner in the top-six from a year ago. Erickson was 22-4 last season and played primarily at #6 singles. Maria Bryan, who partnered up with Ali O’Neal in doubles for the majority of last season, will be called upon to step into a role in singles play as well. Mary Roop, Julie Bardenwerper, and Megan Born are the other top competitors battling for the sixth and final spot in the lineup.
Frank and Bryan had a strong fall season playing together in doubles and will look to carry the momentum into the spring, while Coach Jon Carlson will mix-and-match players to fill the third and final doubles spot. “I’ve had a number-12 player on Spring Break move up to play in the fifth spot by the national tournament, so anything can happen,” commented Carlson on the competition for the final spot in singles and doubles.
Carlson feels that the conference has improved a great amount since last season and that this year’s race for a championship should to highly competitive. “The level of play has been raised in the conference, meaning there really are not any easy matches. I expect Carleton and St. Thomas to be very strong this year, as we will surely be tested in most all our MIAC matches,” said Carlson.
Carlson is in his 21st season at the helm of the Gustavus women’s tennis program. He is assisted by Heidi Carlson and Jamie Gaard.
The Gustavus women’s tennis team will open its spring campaign on Friday, Feb. 12, 2011. Half of the team will head south to Des Moines, Iowa to take on Drake (9:00 am) and Graceland (2:00 pm), while the other half will face Nebraska-Omaha (8:30 am) in St. Peter.