Women's Tennis Hits the Courts at Milwaukee Tennis Classic
Sept. 20, 2007
MILWAUKEE - Competitive is the word that keeps surrounding head women's tennis coach Jody Bronson and the Marquette women's tennis team. The Golden Eagles return to the courts for the 2007-08 season with their entire lineup that went 12-16 last season and placed fourth at the BIG EAST Conference Tournament. With the additions of highly touted newcomers Rachael Hush and Christina Ruiz, Bronson is excited about the potential of the team.
"With two freshman coming in and everyone working on their game, we are going to have a very competitive team," said Bronson. "We didn't lose anyone in the lineup. It's been a great situation that it has had to be this competitive. Every player knows how much better this team can be."
Bronson, who is entering her 23rd season as head coach of the Golden Eagles, has pulled together one of her most experienced squads in recent years. Returning for the Golden Eagles are seniors Shannon Brown, Maria Calbeto and Erin Watkins, juniors Lauren Little and Robin Metzler, and sophomores Kylie Moore, Elly Strother and Maggie Wilson. Although uncertain of what lineup will be put together, Bronson is sure there will be competition week in and week out for positions.
"For every player, there is no guarantee," said Bronson. "Players that are working hard all of the time are going to surface. They know what the situation is - we didn't lose anyone from the lineup and we have new people coming in. Everyone has to be prepared that way."
Competitiveness will be the key as the Golden Eagles look to better their 12-16 record from last season. Matches against six NCAA Tournament participants will be a good test for the eager Golden Eagles. Bronson is looking for senior leadership to guide the way.
"I am looking for our seniors to really step up this season. Beba and Erin have learned a lot over the years and have continued to be consistent performers for us. Shannon, even though she has only been with us for one season, is committed to elevating her game," Bronson said.
Calbeto has been one of the Golden Eagles most steady players through the years and has contributed since stepping on campus her freshman year. Last season, Calbeto battled through injury and didn't start playing until the spring portion of the season. She played 28 matches overall at slots 1-4. Calbeto spent the summer working on improving her hitting and is eager to get the 2007-08 campaign rolling.
"Beba had a really tough go with her injury. Last year she did win matches for us, but I don't think she was really happy with what she wasn't able to do," said Bronson. Having her here this summer, she is so energized. She is hitting the ball much stronger and serving much better. She is such a fighter. She finds a way to win."
Like Calbeto, Watkins has been a constant in the Golden Eagles' lineup since her freshman season. Over the years, Watkins has been productive and led the Golden Eagles for the second consecutive season in 2007 with 19 wins. Bronson is looking for another great season from Watkins to cap her career.
"Erin did a great job last year," Bronson said. "She is a senior now, so we are looking to her for some leadership and to go out on a great season. She has gotten better and better the last couple of years and has come through for us big time."
Brown, MU's third senior in the lineup, shined for the Golden Eagles in her first season after transferring from Marshall University. She held down the No. 6 singles slot with a 9-3 record. For the season Brown registered 17 wins. Bronson expects her to step up and contribute more than last season.
"Shannon had a very successful year last year, she won a lot of points for us. She is realizing that she needs to elevate herself even more because of the competitiveness of the team. We need her to contribute her senior year," Bronson said.
Little and Metzler have seen their fair share of injuries but are focused on making the 2007-08 season a success. Since her freshman season, Little has played a majority of matches at No. 1 singles. The Golden Eagles will be without Metzler for the fall season as she is recovering from wrist surgery. Bronson is looking for Metzler to be ready by January.
"Lauren is a lot more determined this year," said Bronson. "Having played No. 1 last year and understanding what is expected of her, she is ready to step into a roll that can help others people on the team. She has so much potential that she will be very committed to elevating her self. As for Robin, we just need to take it slow and get her healthy."
Marquette's trio of sophomores gained experience their first season at MU. Moore jumped into the lineup immediately and saw a handful of matches at no. 1 singles. Strother and Wilson continued to improve and gain experience. They will and will be battling for a spot in the lineup.
"After experiencing her freshman year, Kylie is now understanding what the demands are and what is expected of her. She is going to perform at a much higher level this year," said Bronson. "Both Elly and Maggie spent a lot of time on their games this summer and look to break into the lineup. It's been a great situation that it has been very competitive. They know how much better they can be."
Joining the returnees are Hush and Ruiz who are very familiar with each other already as they teamed up to win the National Open in Maunee, Ohio, in November of 2006. Although the two aren't definite doubles partners, Bronson is excited to what the newcomers will bring to the team.
"They both have a tremendous desire to be better and to take this program to the next level. They will impact us in both singles and doubles. Their fierce competitiveness will make players on this team better," said Bronson.
Bronson is eager for all 10 players to succeed this season. Without an order set, she knows anyone could step up and take on any roll.
"Everyone is very interested in making themselves better and taking on a roll. We are expecting to have a great year. Anything short would be a disappointment. We have the pieces, and if everyone commits we should be better than last year. The players are going to know from the start where we are going and what we are going to have to do to get there," said Bronson.
The Golden Eagles will get their first dose of fall competition as they host the 32nd annual Milwaukee Tennis Classic at the Western Racquet Club in Elm Grove, Wis., Sept. 21-23. Action for the round-robin tournament will kickoff each day at 9 a.m.
The event, which also includes the Golden Eagles' men's tennis team, will feature Alabama, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. The Marquette men will host DePaul, Ball State and Wichita State.
Everyone on the roster, except Metzler should see action during the weekend. Bronson will look to test different doubles partners as the Golden Eagles prepare for the 2008 spring season.
"We are going to enjoy this tournament and get the season started on the right note," added Bronson. "I know our players are really looking forward to playing outside and against someone other than their teammates."