With eight consecutive Empire 8 championship titles, the women’s tennis team has had no problem hitting its stride early this season.
Despite a long reign in the conference, the Bombers are setting their sights on getting to the next level, which for them is a deep run for the NCAA championships.
The Blue and Gold return five starters, including graduate students Cristina Nunez ’13 and Allison Young ’13. Nunez played in the No. 1 singles spot last season and is slotted to keep that role, according to head coach Bill Austin.
Nunez said she is excited to return to the team for one more season, but she said both veterans and newcomers on the team have much to learn.
“Right now, we don’t even have a starting lineup,” she said. “Right now we’re trying to bond as a team and find out each player’s strengths and weaknesses, so we can make everybody a better player.”
Nunez also emphasized the importance that doubles matches will play during the season.
“There’s a lot of points to be won in the doubles matches,” Nunez said. “We’re going to need some of the freshmen to step in and play those matches, so getting experience early will be important for later in the season.
Though the Bombers have coasted through the Empire 8 in the past eight fall seasons, junior Allison Vizgaitis said she is aware that every team is gunning for them and wants to take away their title.
“We come into every match and treat each opponent the same,” Vizgaitis said. “We play every match 100 percent and don’t hold anything back, no matter what.”
Nunez said the team practices match situations in practices in order to help the players stay calm under pressure during competition. She said it is also a way to increase competitiveness among teammates.
“We’re going to play challenge matches as a way to increase the level of competitiveness,” she said. “Doing things as a group in general usually helps make us better and find the right people to put in different matches and situations.”
Bill Austin is entering his 14th season as head coach of the Blue and Gold. He said the squad is setting short-term goals to begin the season, because it needs to find an identity.
“When you have a new set of women joining the team, you have to find out where they are strong and not so strong in different areas of their game,” he said. “By setting short-term goals early in the season, it’ll help us better prepare for the spring when we play some of the nationally ranked opponents we play in the season and the postseason tournaments.”
Vizgaitis, who has also been a singles and doubles starter since her first year, said the team’s goals for October are to win the Empire 8 tournament for the ninth consecutive season and to advance past the second round in the NCAA tournament where they were eliminated in the spring.
“We want to keep the streak going when we play this fall,” she said. “We know it’s a long season we have to prepare for, and hopefully by spring we’ll all be playing at a much higher level.”