Oakland tennis calls for leadership from young staff

Katie LaDuke , Staff Reporter

A collegiate sport rarity is happening on the tennis courts for the second consecutive seasonOakland University tennis does not have any seniors on the 2017-18 season roster.

This year’s team is comprised of two juniors, five sophomores and one freshmen compared to last season’s two sophomores and six freshmen. Just two years ago, the team was mainly upperclassmen with five seniors and three freshmen.

“We’re expecting really good things,” Head Coach Heather Redshaw said. “We have a young group with a bunch of sophomores that have a year under their belt. We kind of get it a little bit more than we did last year. It’s really good to see.”

Last year, the team ended with an overall 8-13 record.

Still early into this year’s season, the Golden Grizzlies have dropped their first two matches against Western Michigan University and Utah State. However, sophomores Samantha Galloway and Alexandra Whall along with freshman Darya Maltseva picked up victories in singles. In doubles, the Maltseva-Whall pair also picked up a win at No. 2.

“Everyone has been fighting really well [in matches],” Whall said. “In practice, we always talk about being more as a group and more as a team. I think the more matches we play, the better we get. We’ve been really competitive with some really good teams.”

Since the team is relatively young and only holds eight student-athletes, everyone is expected to be a leader. Being great at the sport is not enough. Players have to demonstrate hardwork in class while also supporting their teammates.

“I think we all need to learn a little bit from our mistakes and then be leaders on and off the court,” Redshaw said.

The team’s current captain is Whall. In her freshman campaign, she was 7-13 for singles. At the No. 3 spot, she went 7-6. With doubles, Whall and Galloway were 3-6 in the No. 1 spot.

“It’s being a leader on and off the court, so making sure I get good grades and helping anyone out that I can,” Whall said.

The two juniors, Sofia Borcuti and Dasha Artamonova, add an extra layer of experience.

“They’ve been through championships,” Redshaw said. “They are our No. 1 doubles team as a pair, so that does show that they’ve been around. They get it, so we expect them to do the right things.”

Transitioning from junior teams to NCAA Division I athletics can be challenging. While many girls on the team played with each other at the junior level, they viewed the sport as solo competition.

Cheering for teammates was not always done because of the focus on individual performances. The transition to Division I opens an opportunity to make the school and team look good but also feel good.

“I think coming in from juniors, everyone played for themselves,” sophomore Allison Motea said. “It never really was a team thing. Over the year, we’ve all made huge improvements.”

Besides coming together as a cohesive unit, the team is also working on keeping energy up past doubles into singles.

“Once we win the doubles point, it feels so good to go play singles,” Motea said. “We’re so energetic and so happy. There’s less pressure, but at the same time you go on the court with such a better attitude.”

The team is looking forward to putting what they have been working on in practices to use in Horizon League games. Horizon League plays opens on Saturday, March 24 against UIC.

“It’s just really fun to bond all together, especially when we do well and in Horizon League play,” Whall said. “The whole atmosphere is different.”