The women’s tennis team hopes to do what it has done only once in the last ten years—reach the postseason. This feat has not been accomplished since 2008, but coaches and players believe this year provides an opportunity.
“In terms of the MIAC, this is the best position we’re probably going to be in for a while, so we want to take advantage,” Gabby Queenan ’15 (Bedford, MA). “We’re returning almost our whole team. It just makes me really excited for this year.”
“We have one goal, and that is to make the playoffs,” captain Paige Schaefer ’13 (Madison, WI) said. “That’s usually been a distant goal, but this year it seems realistic.”
While the Scots finished at an even 10-10 last year and 3-7 in the MIAC, they ended the season by winning five of their final six matches, including a three-match MIAC win streak.
According to Queenan, last season’s success carried over into a great fall season.
Still, the goal of making the postseason will be a challenge.
“We play in easily one of the top two or three best conferences in the country,” coach Jason Muhl said. “Our expectation is to make it to the conference tournament.”
Even though it would be easier to make the postseason in a weaker conference, Queenan said that she enjoys the strong competition of the MIAC.
“We always play up to the level of our opponents,” Queenan said. “But it’s nice to come in this year and know that everyone has experience, because I think it will help make sure we always keep the same high level of play consistently.”
Schaefer expressed similar sentiments.
“We don’t just walk into a match and lay down, that’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” Schaefer said.
Carmen Whitehead ’14 (Greeley, CO) will be captaining the team alongside Schaefer. Whitehead will join the team this weekend, once the basketball season concludes. Coach Muhler is excited for her return.
“Once we get Carmen back, we’re looking really strong,” Muhl said, who praised his other players as well.
“Gabby Queenan has really impressed. Alisha Roopchand ’15 (Woodbridge, CT) is really, really improved. Paige Schaefer is playing really well, but honestly I can’t say there is one person playing so much better than anyone else,” Muhl continued. “They’re all maturing and playing better.”
This year’s squad is particularly young: Schaefer is the lone senior on the roster this season, even though the team graduated just one senior last year. Adding to youth movement is the addition of four freshmen to the team. Playing number one for Macalester will likely be Katelyn Glenna ’15 (Winona, MN) who also handled that role last year as a freshman.
In light of the team’s youth, the Scots have emphasized the importance of maintaining good team chemistry, something Schaefer understands in her role as captain.
“Tennis has always been a really supportive place for me in college,” Schaefer said. “I got a lot of guidance from the senior captains when I was a freshman, and I want to give them that same experience.”
“It’s so great to look forward to coming to practice every day,” Queenan said. “Tennis is really competitive, and believe me, you don’t always have a team like this where everyone is so supportive and friendly.”
Coach Muhl said this kind of atmosphere is the reason why he coaches.
“Just the enthusiasm they bring to practices and matches, as a coach that’s what it’s all about. It really is a family, both the girls and the guys,” Muhl said. “Last year’s team was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had in all my years of coaching, and this year has been the exact same.”
So far, Macalester is 1-1 in the Spring season, falling to St. Cloud State 1-8 and beating Southwest Minnesota State 7-2. However, both of those teams compete at the Division II level, meaning that the Scots have yet to be tested by a Division III team.
The difficulty of this schedule is not a coincidence.
“The majority of our non-conference games are against Division II schools,” Muhl said. “I specifically try to schedule the toughest non-conference matches just so we’re battle tested and ready to play.”
The team hopes that playing this tough non-conference schedule will pay off sooner rather than later. Macalester’s first conference match is at Carleton on Feb. 15, a team that won the MIAC’s regular and postseason titles last season and began this season ranked 30th in the country.