BYU's women's tennis team heads into the 1998-99 season without two of it's All-America standouts. But the crop of experienced returners and newcomers should provide for another exciting year of women's collegiate tennis.
Being without two top All-Americas to begin your season is not something most coaches like to think about but head coach Clark Barton, beginning his third year with the Cougars, has a lot of confidence in his players.
"Yes, we'll have a young team this year but they have a lot of talent, athleticism, great attitudes and are all hard working individuals," he said.
Toping the list this year is Gee Gee Garvin, a transfer from UNLV who brings real strength to the top of the Cougar line up. She likely will take the spot vacated by All-America Holly Parkinson who turned professional after her freshman year at BYU.
Brooke Leavens returns for her second season with BYU and her talents and abilities should push her to a top spot in the lineup which was left void after junior All-America Eline Chiew suffered a knee injury during the fall season.
"Both Gee Gee and Brooke will play key leadership roles at the top of our singles and doubles lineups," said head coach Clark Barton. "They have a lot of talent and abilities which will allow them to have very successful collegiate careers."
Four other returners will step right up to the court for the Cougars. Jodi Richardson the other Australian on the team is expected to see a lot of action at the bottom half of the BYU lineup. After posting a 13-6 singles record in her first year, Richardson is poised to be another consistent number five player.
Also fighting for a spot on the lineup are juniors Kim Kelly and Tara Ferguson. Both are coming of very promising seasons.
"All three of these athletes are tough, gutty players who have the talent to match up against anyone in women's college tennis today," commented Barton.
Junior returner Shari Smith has played a significant role in BYU's doubles teams and will continue in that role this year as well.
Seniors Caytee Goble and Lisel Freestone will finish their college eligibility this year with the Cougars. Goble has been a big part of the team while Freestone is coming back to college tennis after a short break from competitive tennis.
Making more competitive transitions will be two newcomers to the BYU program. Britney Young a sophomore from Orem, Utah is joining the team after one year of junior college competition. Freshman Khushchher Italia finished her senior year of high school early joining the Cougar program in January.
"These will be our newest players this season, but their athletic talent and court savvy will allow them to have immediate impact on our team," adds Barton.
This young, but talented team faces one of the toughest schedules in recent years for the BYU program.
Starting in January, the Cougars host three nationally ranked teams. Number one Florida and 29th ranked Wisconsin are in the headlines early in Provo along with Northwestern.
In February, the season doesn't get any easier other than they do stay at home for dual matches against. Kansas, Boise State and Kansas State.
The road schedule takes BYU to North Carolina for games against the Tarheels, Tennesee, Duke and Clemson.
Competing in their final year as the WAC's 16-team conference, the Cougars will play Rice, SMU and TCU one last time. In April BYU will travel to Albuquerque to defend its WAC title. The Cougar women have won five of the last six championships.
The 1998-99 year will be filled with a group of young, eager and talented athletes who will give thrilling matches to the many loyal Cougar tennis fans.