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The Scarlet & Black

Women’s tennis unfazed by loss

Shirlene Luk ’15 hits a forehand against Augustana College on Thursday, Aug. 28. Photo by Connie Lee

The start of a new school year promises the beginning of a myriad of highly anticipated sports in Grinnell, including women’s tennis: a program that has won nine out of the past 10 Midwest Conference titles, including the last four. However, the team opened its new season last Thursday at Augustana College with an unfortunate loss, placing fifth among eight teams at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawk Invitational last Saturday. 

Facing Augustana in the first match of the season, the Pioneers were anxious, not so much about winning but about developing teamwork and getting to know their strengths heading into the season. For a program with such dominating campaigns, this process may be unfamiliar. 

“Most of our preparation was focused on ourselves, not Augustana,” explained head coach Andy Hamilton ’85. “The team is very young, so at the beginning of the season we are working on development and are not concerned with the results.” 

Shirlene Luk ’15 hits a forehand against Augustana College on Thursday, Aug. 28. Photo by Connie Lee
Shirlene Luk ’15 hits a forehand against Augustana College on Thursday, Aug. 28. Photo by Connie Lee

The youth of the players is the result of five talented seniors graduating. The remaining members of Hamilton’s crew will have big shoes to fill, as the quintet played a huge part of the squad’s past successful campaigns.

“Last April, we had five seniors that were still around … and having people that played [college] matches before does make a difference because they know what to do and they’re more prepared,” said Shirlene Luk ’15. 

But the loss of the seniors also means welcoming talented first-years, who are enthusiastic to fill the gaps. Five first-years joined the squad this year, including Hannah Cook ’18, who paired up with Shanaz Daneshdoost ’17 to secure a victory in the number two doubles. 

“I really enjoy playing with her,” Daneshdoost said. “I think we have a lot of good chemistry in that she’s very strong at the base line and I love the net, so I think that we work pretty well together.” 

Along with the incoming freshmen, the players will also look up to new leadership from the latest appointed captains—Luk, Becca Richman ’15 and Virginia Purcell ’17.

“I think they’ve all stepped up and made a lot of the first-years feel at home,” Daneshdoost said. “There’s a lot of inclusiveness in our team and I think that’s very necessary and something that I really appreciate.”

Luk displayed her leadership and experience and showed no rust from the off season by placing second in the number one singles division at the Warhawk Invitational as well. Her performance helped Grinnell to place fifth in the tournament. 

As the team looks toward the rest of the season, the main goal will revolve around developing match play and doubles—not only for the experienced athletes but for the first-years as well. In the Augustana match, most of the losses came from match tiebreakers.

“It’s a little rough right now, for sure. It’s because our team is so young, we don’t have enough experience with match plays and we do sometimes freeze up,” Luk said. “So, just having a better mentality will help a lot. And that will come later on once we play more and more.” 

The Pioneers will test their goal tomorrow in Deborah, Iowa, against Luther College and College of Saint Benedict. 

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