Clarksville, Ark.-University of the Ozarks Head Women?s Tennis Coach Shaun Wiseman is happy to have a veteran group return for the 2013 season, but with that experience comes increased expectations.
Two seniors, three juniors and two sophomores give Wiseman the luxury of an experienced team in the competitive American Southwest Conference. Chelsea Glasscock and Tara Richards return for their senior seasons and have been with the program for all four years. Whitney Lewis, Kalli Simpson and Macie Kelley are back for their junior seasons. Megan Wallace and transfer Mollie Grace Wilkinson make up the sophomore class, while talented freshman Elly Eibes comes in with high expectations.
“This is about as good as it gets as far as experience,” said Wiseman. “They play well together and it is a close group. We are not flashy but rather very blue-collar. They are hard working and consistent, and that is very important. We fight in each match and you have to take it from us. We don’t give it to you.”
The Lady Eagles got off to a slow start last season, but came together and positioned themselves for a better 2013. Ozarks finished 4-10 overall and won the final two matches of the season.
“Our team got better as the season went on,” said Wiseman. “They had to circle the wagons when our season could have been derailed. That has made them so much better and ready for this season. Our expectations are to qualify for the conference tournament. I feel like this team is probably as ready as any team I’ve had in the last three years. They have the talent and experience to get there.”
Glasscock and Richards have both been All-Conference performers during their careers. Glasscock posted a 6-5 singles record and teamed with Richards to pick up four doubles wins. Richards went a solid 3-3 against conference opponents in singles play.
“Our two seniors have meant so much to our program,” said Wiseman. “They have been the foundation of the program. I have enjoyed seeing them both grow. The junior class has been a good supporting group. They keep us focused. They have been the glue to keep the program together.”
Lewis posted four wins at No. 1 singles. Kelley tied for the team-lead in singles wins (6). Simpson had three wins in both singles and doubles.
“It might be a little too early to tell who is No. 1,” said Wiseman. “Whitney has been a leader on the court. She has as good a work ethic as any female athlete that I have been around during my time at Ozarks. She practices harder and longer than anyone. It will depend how Elly handles the spotlight. She has some growing to do and still needs more experience. But she has the raw ability to be a dominant No. 1 in our conference. It will just come down to whether she will be patient enough to get there.”
Wallace and Wilkinson give the team even more experience.
“Mollie Grace moves forward well and has great hands,” said Wiseman. “And when she is confident she is as good as anyone on the team. Megan has developed into a solid player. She works hard and doesn’t get discouraged. She refuses to quit.”
Ozarks opens the season February 3 against Henderson State University.