SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara women's tennis team begins their season against UC Santa Barbara this weekend. The dual match, which begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, will be held on the Santa Barbara campus. The Gauchos are ranked No. 73 in the most recent FILA Collegiate Tennis rankings.
Following a hectic fall that saw a coaching change just prior to the season, the Bronco women are aiming for a successful spring season. With three seniors and two juniors in the lineup, the Broncos will have a very experienced lineup led by captains Casey Knutson and Myra Davoudi that should be competitive once again in the always tough West Coast Conference.
The team's experience was key this past fall as the team suffered though a number of injuries and a slow start to the season in their first two tournaments. However, the team bounced back strong to play their best tennis in the last three tournaments of the season, including one of the top performances in recent history at the Saint Mary's Invitational.
Leading the Broncos this season is Ben Cabell, who took over the head coach position on an interim basis in September following two years as an assistant coach. A player's coach, Cabell quickly established himself as a strong leader for the team, helping them overcome a slow start before putting together a number of great performances at the tail end of the fall. A former student-athlete at Santa Clara, Cabell boasts over 20 years of experience in Northern California tennis. Assisting Cabell will be Tricia Guidace, who is in her fifth season as a coach at SCU.
"We had a bit of an unusual start to the year," said Cabell. "However, the experience and maturity of our seniors and juniors helped the team get back to playing some great tennis. I am also lucky to be able to count on such an experienced and knowledgeable assistant coach like Tricia."
"I am looking forward to the spring season," said Cabell. "After settling down we played well this fall and I expect that to carry over to the team season. We have a solid lineup and we now have a good idea of where everyone is going to play, so we should be ready for a competitive season."
The top of the singles lineup will be anchored by senior captain Casey Knutson, who has already had a brilliant career on the Mission Campus. Knutson won 11 matches last season and five more in the fall to bring her careeer total to 42, placing her ninth in school history. After playing all over the lineup a year ago, Knutson should fill one of the top three spots for the team this year.
"Casey will have a tough assignment playing either No. 1 or No. 2," said Cabell. "She has proven to be very tough during her career and that rubs off on her teammates. She will be a great leader for us this season."
Fellow seniors Erika Barnes, a doubles specialist, and Kim Daniel provide the team with even more leadership. Barnes has already won 45 doubles matches in her career and has proven to be a solid middle lineup player. Capable of playing with almost anyone, Barnes is looking to go out with a memorable senior season. Daniel is just behind Knutson on the all-time wins list with 41 singles victories and is coming off a 10-win junior year. A player who avoids mistakes, Daniel should provide the team with a strong player near the end of the lineup who can pick up a number of important wins in dual matches
"Erika and Kim have had very good careers already," said Cabell. "Erika has a lot of weapons in her game and I expect her to finish her senior season on a high note. Kim does not make many mistakes and has always been a very consistent performer so she should get a lot of wins for us in the middle or end of our singles lineup."
The junior class features two talented players in Davoudi and transfer Lindsay McBride, who enjoyed a fantastic fall season in her first quarter at SCU.
Davoudi tripled her win total last year as a sophomore and was named the team's Most Improved Player. She went 4-2 in WCC matches also and looks primed for an even better campaign after picking up seven wins in the fall season. After being named a captain prior to the season, she has thrived in a leadership role for the Broncos.
"We are asking a lot of Myra this year both on and off the court," said Cabell. "We fully expect her to step up to the challenge and have an outstanding year. She will really be the anchor in the middle of our lineup."
In her first year on the Mission Campus, McBride has won a lot of admiration for her tenacious, mistake-free tennis. She reached the final of the Saint Mary's Invitational and had a number of big wins against players from WCC schools and other top programs.
"When Lindsay gets on the court, she has an excellent demeanor and toughness," noted Cabell. "She grinds through every match and does not give away any points so she is very difficult to beat. She is able to compete against anyone and we are glad to have her in our lineup this year."
After not playing this fall, Stephanie Galainena returns for the spring season. Looking to build off a freshman season that saw her play at the top of the team's lineup, Galainena will again bring her intensity and enthusiasm to every match for SCU.
Health and experience will be key for the remaining members of this year's team. Stephanie Georgino and Flavia Miracle have both missed significant time during their careers due to injury and are still recovering from injuries in the fall. Georgino is not expected to play in the spring due to a back injury, while Miracle is hoping to be healthy again and add some depth to the lineup. The pair combined to play one match in the fall season.
Also hoping to make an impact this season is the team's lone freshman Meghan Madden who arrives from Portland, Ore., following a strong junior career.
"She has already exceeded expectations this year," said Cabell. "I believe that she has a bright future in college tennis at Santa Clara."
While not being known for their doubles in the past, the Broncos boast one of their strongest doubles lineups in recent memory this year. Cabell's doubles' lineup will probably feature Galainena and Barnes, Davoudi and McBride and Knutson and Daniel.
"We have a lot of competitive players in doubles now," said Cabell. "Both Casey and Myra have shown great improvement in doubles over the past year and Erika has always excelled as a doubles player. With those three along with Lindsay, Stephanie (Galainena) and Kim, I think that we should have good success in doubles.
The Broncos will once again face a schedule that will challenge them. In conference play, the Broncos will face nationally-ranked Loyola Marymount along with Bay Area rivals, San Francisco and Saint Mary's. After opening the season with three road matches, the team will enjoy a five-match home stretch from Feb. 17 - March 7 that includes four West Coast Conference opponents and a Rivalry Series match against San Jose State. Gonzaga, Saint Mary's, San Francisco and LMU all come to the Degheri Tennis Center during that crucial stretch. After finishing the regular season on April 18 against Fresno Pacific, the team will compete in the WCC Championships from April 20-22 at Pepperdine University in Malibu.
Overall, the Broncos appear ready to for a break-out spring campaign as long as the team can stay healthy. Cabell's squad competed very well against fellow West Coast Conference opponents in the fall, while showing grit and determination that should lead them to a number of dual match victories in 2007.
"The team came back with a great finish to the fall season so we need to set the bar a little higher this spring," said Cabell. "We are going to be in every match and if we stay healthy I think that we will surprise some people this year."