The BYU women's tennis team is ready for a new season that promises to be filled with much success. They enter the 2002-2003 season with lofty goals and even higher expectations.
Coming off a 10-14 season that was filled with injuries and tough losses to key opponents, this year's Cougars have a great schedule and a team with a lot of depth. Fourth year head coach Craig Manning is optimistic about the upcoming season.
"I know we are going to be pretty good," Manning said. "How good we are, that is yet to be seen. We have enough depth that this team could be better than any I have had since I have been at BYU."
With only one player gone, this year's team brings with it great leadership skills and experience.
"We basically have the same team as last year, but they all come back with more to offer," said Manning.
Brooke Beverley graduated and was the lone departing player. But she will be a tough one to replace.
"Brooke Beverley is a loss to our team, particularly in doubles," Manning said. "She is a fantastic doubles player and she will be tough to replace. It's good we're only losing one of our starters from last year."
Manning is hoping the seniors on the team will step up and fill in the gap left by the loss of Beverley.
Seniors Dominique Reynolds and Lu Oswald finished last year playing No. 1 and 2, respectively. Last season, they were both named to the Mountain West All-Conference team for the second consecutive year. Reynolds posted an impressive 19-9 record in singles play in 2002 and finished the season on a strong note winning her last 13 singles matches. Oswald ended the year with an even 15-15 singles record. They will be at the top of the singles lineup this year and will play together as the top doubles team for the Cougars.
"Dominique Reynolds and Lu Oswald have the biggest hearts and they work like crazy," Manning said. "They are the most committed girls. They provide the perfect leadership for our team at the top of our lineup."
Elizaveta Khoudoiarova, the other returning senior on the team, provides great leadership at the bottom half of the singles lineup. She ended the 2002 season with a record of 19-9 in singles at the four, five and six spots.
Lindsay Ferrell returns for her junior year with much to prove. Last year, Ferrell posted a 7-22 record in singles but played a lot at the No. 1 spot.
"Lindsay Ferrell was playing No. 1 for us last year for a while, but she struggled," Manning said. "She was so young last year and the No. 1 spot got to her a little. But she recovered and started playing really well towards the end of the year. She has a lot of potential and is playing better than ever."
What Manning is hoping to do this year is to have some depth, something he said he hasn't been able to accomplish since he took over the program at BYU.
"I want our team to be deep so that if someone gets injured or someone is not playing well, I can pull them out of the lineup for a few matches and replace them with someone else that is playing well," he said. "Last year, there were some matches that we were lucky to have enough players for a team. With this year's team, I think we have some real depth."
Rebecca Pike and Nicole Schneider, the two girls that came in from Australia last January to join the Cougars, will provide the depth coach Manning is looking for. Both Pike and Schneider struggled early last year, posting singles records of 3-7 and 6-11 respectively, but Coach Manning feels this last year has helped them get ready for the upcoming season.
"Rebecca Pike and Nicole Schneider have had time to acclimatize," Manning said. "It is so hard to come from Australia in January and play right away, but they came in and did a great job. Big things are expected of them this season in both singles and doubles."
Tara Porter from Laie, Hawaii and newcomer Hadley Macfarlane from Ogden, Utah will also give the Cougars extra depth on an already deep team.
This year's schedule will be challenging, with perennial top-15 schools Notre Dame, Tennessee and South Carolina coming to Provo. But Manning feels the schedule will be to BYU's advantage.
"We have a great schedule this year," he said. "We play some easier matches earlier in the season which will allow us some time to get things going. Most of our tough matches, including conference opponents San Diego State and UNLV, are at home this year, so that is great for us."
For the 2002-2003 season, the team goals are very straightforward.
"The conference championship is our No. 1 priority," Manning said. "We want to be ranked in the top 25 nationally by the end of the season, in the top 35 by the end of the fall and go undefeated in conference matches. We set high goals for ourselves. It is the girls that set those goals. They want to win and I think we're capable of achieving that."