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One of the main focuses for the Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s tennis teams entering the 2013 season is to strengthen from top to bottom.

Through recruiting and receiving incoming transfers, the Lakers now feel that they have enough to make some noise in the GLIAC.

On the men’s side, freshmen Billy Heckman, Jack Heiniger and Brad Plaisier will join eight returning letter-winners from last year. Head coach John Black said he is hopeful that the first-year athletes will be able to make a quick transition to the college game and have an early impact.

“All three guys coming in are talented enough to start,” Black said. “The key thing is how quickly they can adjust to the college game. Usually, it takes some time for the freshmen to adjust to playing doubles. We hope that the learning curve is a short one.”

Returning players from last year’s squad are also excited about the incoming class. The added depth that the new players provide will be instrumental in the Lakers’ quest for a GLIAC title.

“All three have a chance to be game changers immediately by making the starting lineup. It’s superb to have Billy and Brad from my hometown of Kalamazoo,” senior co-captain Andrew Darrell said. “They’ve really developed as players from when I first played with them at a young age. Jack is very consistent and an intelligent player. Billy has natural talent and a great serve. Brad has a lot of variety to his game. They all are great workers. They strengthen our team tremendously.”

At the end of last season, the Lakers were plagued by several injuries. If they are able to remain healthy, they hope to be competitive near the top of the GLIAC standings.

The women’s team is also welcoming junior transfer Carola Orna, who spent her last two years at William Carey University in Mississippi. She played No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles while leading her team to the NAIA National Championship Match. Orna was also named an NAIA All-American in both singles and doubles. She clicked with the Laker team instantly, and the returning players are excited to see what this chemistry can do on the court.

“Carola is a great player,” junior Kelly Trapp said. “She’s a very strong doubles player. She’s aggressive at the net and does a nice job exploiting her opponents’ weaknesses. She’s a great teammate, too.”

Black said he is pleased with the hard work the team put in over the summer and has noticed a significant improvement in the quality of recent workouts. The Lakers have a great deal of experience with eight upperclassmen on the roster, but balance and contributions from all players will be crucial if the Lakers want to compete for the GLIAC championship.

“We have lot of depth and high level of play at the top of our lineup, but we need contribution from top to bottom,” Black said.

GVSU’s tennis teams not only excel on the court, but in the classroom, as well. Seven players were recently named ITA Scholar-Athletes. The players earning these honors on the women’s team include juniors Leah Dancz, Kali Phillips, Trapp, senior Lexi Rice, and recently graduated Allison Fecko. Senior Bryan Hodges and Darrell were the two honorees representing the men’s team.

“Our players do a tremendous job on and off the court,” Black said. “Nearly half of the tennis players received an academic honor. They are very well-rounded student athletes. Both teams were well over a 3.0 grade point average and some individuals had a 4.0. I don’t have to worry because they are dedicated to tennis and excelling academically.”

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