All roads lead to regional, national CHAMPIONSHIPS

GVL Archive / Andrew Mills 
Junior Tara Hayes returns the ball

GVL Archive / Andrew Mills Junior Tara Hayes returns the ball

Zach Sepanik

A perfect season is hard to come by in any sport, but with a 27-0 record, the Grand Valley State University women’s tennis team, also ranked No. 1 in the latest Midwest regional rankings, is well on its way.

The Lakers’ match against Hope College tomorrow will be their first since wrapping up its spring break trip on March 11. It has been quite the layoff for the team.

“I handle all the scheduling,” said GVSU head coach John Black. “We had our conference meet in the fall and most of the rest of the country does women’s tennis in the spring, like late March and April. So, it is very difficult to find teams to play because everyone is in conference. We tend to have to go a little bit lighter and play some of the local colleges just to get some matches in.”

With no matches in almost a month, the team has been practicing diligently and is getting anxious to return to the court, said senior Darylann Trout.

“We have been concentrating on keeping up our singles play at practice because with a lot of time off, that is the first thing to lose ability in,” she said. “We also just want to stay undefeated because we’ve come so far and have beaten a lot of teams we didn’t think we could, so we want to take it all the way.”

Hope College competes in NCAA Division III like two other opponents the Lakers will face down the stretch: Calvin College and Coe College.

“We played Hope last year, and we won pretty easy,” said junior Tara Hayes. “If we practice hard this week, we’ll go in there and win all our matches. We just need to go in strong and start out winning all three doubles matches, and then we will be pretty confident when we go out for singles that we’ll win the match.”

The matches will help the Lakers get back into actual competition and prepare for the postseason that lies ahead.

“They will be good matches for us where we can go in loose and sort of work on fine-tuning our games and get some match play in,” Black said. “We have been doing a lot of match play against each other and especially been working on doubles in practice. The women have done very well in doubles this year, but pretty much if we can get the lead after the doubles matches, we feel we can beat any team in the country.”

A perfect season seems to be in the ladies’ grasp, but the success does not stop there. The hope is to hold the overall top regional ranking and host the first two rounds of the regional championships. From there, the focus will be on a national championship run.

“We are all a little bit nervous for regionals because we might face Wayne State University, Ferris State University or Drury University in the first round,” Hayes said. “We will stay mentally prepared and practice hard until that day. We need every girl to play hard and stay calm and positive to win.”

Trout emphasized Hayes’ sentiments and said as the top team in the Midwest, pressure can mount.

“We all want to make it to nationals extremely bad,” she said. “We have worked so hard with that being our ultimate goal and being the No. 1 seed in the region makes it seem like nationals is really close. However, as the No. 1 seed, it makes us all a little more nervous because that’s not the role that we’re used to.”

Black added that once GVSU is back to playing Division II opponents, every match will be a threat to its run at a perfect record.

“Most likely we will have to play and beat somebody that we beat in the fall,” he said. “They are not going to give us the match and just because we beat them then does not mean they will roll over for us.”

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