Strong Line-Up Nets Records
An influx of young talent and a newly extended competitive season set the stage for the winningest year ever for the St. Norbert College women’s tennis team. The Green Knights won 24 of their 29 dual meets during the 2013-14 season, smashing the previous school record for victories of 15. Individual records tumbled, too.
“It was a really neat season,” says Paul Miller, who shares coaching duties with his wife, Carrie ’99. “We had wonderful leadership with three seniors who led by example over the course of their careers. Five freshmen and one transfer sophomore provided youth and depth to an already strong lineup, and those two things led to a great team.
“Ariel Bloniarz ’14 and Maggie Berens ’14 served as senior captains. Bloniarz finished with a 25-10 singles record and a 2-2 doubles mark while earning first team Capital One NCAA Division III Academic All-District honors. Berens was a doubles specialist, going undefeated in the regular season and conference tournament. Brittany Dudzik ’14 finished her career as a four-year starter. Katherine Ake ’17 set a school record for victories in a season by going 30-4 in singles play and 25-4 in doubles. Ake, Bloniarz and Elizabeth Manlick ’17 (25-9) become the first players to earn 25 singles triumphs in a season in school history.
“We had that ‘thing’ that you get sometimes with teams,” Paul Miller says. “When you have it, you want to keep it forever. When things got tight, our team did well. It was so great to watch. Our depth was incredible; we’ve never kept 12 players on the roster before.”
Women’s tennis primarily had been a fall sport until two years ago. The team then regrouped for an abbreviated set of spring matches leading into the conference and potential NCAA tournament, but the practice schedule still trailed the fall season.
“Now that’s changing,” Miller explains. “Half of our matches are in the fall and the other half in the spring. There is an intense practice season for both parts instead of going lighter in the spring. We used this year as a transition year to get the mentality going, and the new schedule starts in full next fall.”
Miller says the increased number of matches and corresponding intensity is making it easier to recruit accomplished players who are looking to play competitive tennis at the Division III level. “The spring season has taken on a whole new level of intensity,” he says. “As a player, it’s great to have confidence in knowing you’ve put in all the hard work and that the results will speak for themselves.”
July 9, 2014