The BYU Women's tennis is poised for a season that promises much success. This year's team enters the 2003-2004 season with expectations set on winning the NCAA tournament.
Finishing last year with a winning 13-11, the Cougars will face another tough season. However, this year's team will be backed by experience and strength with six returning players and four new recruits. They enter the 2003-04 season ranked 48th.
Head coach Craig Manning and assistant coach Holly Hasler have done some heavy recruiting to bring in these four new players. Both coaches are optimistic about the upcoming season.
"We will be tough," Manning said. "I don't know another team that can lose their No. 1 and two players and still stay in the top 50."
Manning is pleased to have assistant coach Hasler for the second consecutive season. Manning said Hasler is on top of everything and is not afraid to discipline the girls.
"I'm really pleased with this year's team, not with just coach Hasler, but everybody," Manning said. "We have good experience and depth. I am really excited to get playing and see what they can all do."
BYU lost the leadership of Dominique Reynolds and Leeza Klempner. However, both players will be around this season helping the team as fifth year assistants. Reynolds finished her senior year with singles record of 18-16 while Klempner finished hers at 11-16. The duo also teamed up to win 13 of their 23 doubles matches last season.
"They both always gave 100 percent every match," Manning said. "I will really miss their competitive spirit as players, but I'm glad they will be around as 5th years."
Manning hopes he can keep the players healthy throughout the season.
Last season senior Lu Oswald suffered a tear to her rotator cuff and underwent surgery to repair the damage. She has worked hard to recover and overcome this setback. Oswald holds a career record of 45-32 at BYU. She had been named to the all-conference team twice and will be at the top of the lineup this season.
Oswald has been a great leader in the past for the rest of the team. This year she is the only returning senior on the squad. She brings experience and strength to the team and to the Mountain West Conference.
"Lu is playing better than ever," Manning said. "She is such a strong player and a strength on our doubles team."
Rebecca Pike, who finished with a singles record of 17-10 last season at the three, four and five spots. One of Pike's strengths last season was teaming with Olga Boulytcheva to post a doubles record of 18-2.
Boulytcheva played at the No. 3 spot last year and finished with a winning singles record of 12-9. Her strength in doubles with Pike will be an added spark for this year's squad.
"Olga has a very simple game," Manning said. "She's so smooth and just sticks to the basics. A very strong player."
Junior Nicole Schneider, from Australia, is a player who adds depth to both the singles and the doubles groups for the Cougars. She had a strong season last year, but coach Manning looks to her being even stronger this year.
"Nicole is such a strong player," Manning said. "She always plays so tough and she is moving much faster than last year. This will be a great season for her."
Another improved player is sophomore Hadley McFarlane. In her freshman campaign last year, she posted a 22-7 singles record and went 20-7 in doubles. Coach Manning is pleased with the progress of McFarlane over the off-season.
"Hadley McFarlane is so disciplined," Manning said. "She has worked really hard to improve her game. She is hitting so well right now and is such a great competitor."
Newcomer Barbora Zahnova, from Moscow, Russia is a transfer from Virginia Commonwealth is a senior who brings strength and a competitive spirit to this squad. Zahnova posted a singles record of 28-2 at Virginia Commonwealth.
"Barbora is an extremely smart player," Manning said. "Barbora will be a great leader this year as a senior. She has a lot of experience and is so focused. I love having great leadership."
The two incoming freshmen are incredible finds for coach's Manning and Hasler. Sofia Holden, from Mexico City and Lauren Jones, from Mission Viejo, Calif. are both very talented and coach Manning expects great strength from their addition.
This year's schedule will be a tough one for the Cougars. Coach Manning looks forward to the schedule; he feels it will be good for the team.
"We have a lot of young girls playing this year," Manning said. "But they are all so good. They come in and play hard and give an honest effort every day. That's what we need this year to be successful."
As goals for this year, the Cougars are shooting for an ace.
"It's all about our attitude," Manning said. "Our goal is to win the NCAA tournament in the spring. Not just the conference. If we practice and play with the right attitude all season, we can do it."