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Women’s Tennis returns many, suffers slight injuries

By Courtney Hemker

With 14 of 17 returning players, the Women’s Tennis Team shows great promise for the 2011-2012 season. The Pioneers won this season’s first two matches against Illinois-Wesleyan University and Augustana College, top teams in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin.

Although last year’s team captain, Marlene Salgado-Ferrer ’11, and strong players Liza Spears ’11 and Elizabeth Montgomery ’11 graduated, Co-Captain Toby Cain ’12 feels more confident than ever in the team’s ability.

“The lineup is stronger than I’ve ever seen Grinnell Women’s Tennis, something that I think was reinforced with two commanding victories last weekend against strong opponents,” Cain said.

The players have been hard-at-work since Aug. 14, taking full advantage of NCAA’s pre-season guidelines with a full 11 days of pre-season training for on-court practice, conditioning, technique stroke work and doubles pairs.

The team has already had to face complications due to injuries. Despite this, they are undeterred.

“We are persevering,” said Clothilde Thirouin ’14. Thirouin suffered an ankle injury earlier this month.

Three of the women have been fighting injuries, leaving the lineup undecided to allow every player has a healthy chance to compete.

Fortunately, the team has many strong players this year, and they have been able to continue to practice and improve despite these injuries. According to Constanza Alarcón-Cordón ’13, the team has one particular advantage this year—depth.

“Now we don’t have to rely on only six people to carry the team. Instead, we have about 10 people who can easily manage,” Alarcón-Cordón said.

These talented players include not only returning members, but also first year Shirlene Luk ’15, a two-time North Dakota state doubles champion. After playing a match with Luk, Alarcón-Cordon commented on her ability.

“Shirlene has a lot of fierceness,” Alarcón-Cordón said. “It was really amazing to see that when we graduate, there will still be strong players to the hold up the program. I’m really excited to see her develop as a player.”

Luk impressed Cain as well.

“I think Shirlene’s four wins this past weekend speak to her ability to fit into the lineup. So far, there hasn’t been a hitch,” Cain said.

Only a few weeks in, Cain also was struck by the team’s unity.

“Tennis is often thought of as an individual sport, but on this team, we have 16 friends working towards the same goals,” Cain said, adding that the team has a lot of fun at the same time.

Even with the team’s impressive lineup and successful start, Coach Hamilton encourages them to strive for more.

“We have not reached our potential in terms of how high a level Grinnell College can have its women’s tennis program,” Hamilton said. “These current players have not reached their maximum potential in terms of playing ability, so we’re focused on improving these players.”

The team will continue working towards the Midwest Conference Championship at the end of the fall season. As the defending Midwest Conference champions, the tennis team hopes to keep their title.

Next up, the Pioneers will compete in the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Invitational, on Saturday, Sept. 3. Then, they will turn their focus to preparing for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional in Minnesota in late September.

Coach Hamilton encourages the Grinnell community to come support the team at their home matches on Sept. 10 and 13, against Knox and Central Colleges, respectively.

“Come out and watch us,” Hamilton said. “You’ll see a championship caliber team.”

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