SANTA CLARA, Calif. –The Santa Clara women's tennis team opens up the dual spring season with the ITA Kick Off on Fri., Jan. 24th in Berkeley, Calif. against No. 8 Cal at 10:00 a.m. and then will face either No. 43 Washington or No. 50 UNLV on Sat., Jan. 25th.
The Broncos are coming off of their first program title in school history last season when they held an 8-2 record atop the WCC with a regular season trophy. After competing and finding success in five preseason tournaments between the months of September and November in 2013, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) ranks the Broncos as the No. 66 team in the nation—a significant improvement from this time last year. With one new freshman and two new seniors, women's tennis is preparing for an intense spring schedule.
"We have a new team and a new dynamic this year so we are trying to figure how it is going to fit in the spring season," said Bronco head coach Ben Cabell. "For one, Daniella Silva had a great first quarter as a freshman. She jumped in right away and got some great wins. Overall Fall was successful, but we always want to come out with something to work on."
Everyone's eyes will be on Milpitas, Calif. native and senior Katie Le as she wraps up her career as a Bronco. In September, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) ranked Le at No. 20 in the 2013-preseason rankings. It is the highest preseason ranking for a Bronco in school history. Currently, Le is ranked No. 35 nationally.
"I've had a great past three years and managed to reach all my goals as a top-25 player, but one thing that I haven't gotten yet is an All-American," said Le. "To do this, I have to get past two rounds in the NCAA Championships or end the year in the top-20 rankings. So that's definitely my goal for the rest of the season, and I think I can do it while gaining confidence throughout the spring matches."
Le has made a name for herself on the Mission campus over the past four years with accolades such as WCC Freshman of the Year in 2011, WCC Player of the Year in 2012 and two consecutive at-large bids to the NCAA Singles Championships in 2012 and '13. Now, as she sits atop the leaders board for most career singles victories, all her attention is turned to the ever-present spring season.
"A lot of the WCC teams have improved significantly so our conference is getting really tough, but with the new players on our squad I think we can beat Saint Mary's and Pepperdine to reach the top of the league," said Le. "As long as we keep working with Sherman Trigg, our strength and conditioning coach, and put in hard work at practice, we will have a successful spring."
With four seniors, the No. 66 Bronco's women's tennis team looks to play to their strength of experience this season, especially when it comes to competing against ranked WCC opponents like San Diego, Saint Mary's and Pepperdine.
"As a team, I really want us to be holding that trophy at the WCC Championships and get a bid to the NCAA tournament in May," said Stephanie Skaras. "We are going to work hard on the court and encourage and push each other to get the team to the championship. Personally, I've been trying to get some wins under my belt and work on being more aggressive but still play my game. I didn't have the greatest of fall seasons, so I went home and forgot about it and now I'm ready for a fresh new start for the Spring."
With a busy February, March and April, the team is being put to the test mentally and physically. Cabell is confident in his team, emphasizing on the girls' ability to anticipate the hard work that is needed to come out on top and be successful in league play and the WCC Championships.
"We need to start working on finding new doubles teams," said Cabell. "The line up is going to be different this year because people will be playing in so many spots. We have the talent, it's just not a lot of people will be playing in the same positions as they did last year. We need to be ready right off the bat because we know we have a challenging schedule, but that is how we get better."
Be sure to check back to SantaClaraBroncos.com for more on the beginning of the women's tennis team's 2014 campaign.