GVSU women’s tennis ready to take next step

GVL / Emily Frye
Junior Abby Perkins hits the serve during a spring match on April 17, 2016.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Junior Abby Perkins hits the serve during a spring match on April 17, 2016.

Mason Tronsor

In this day and age, young people are changing the world across the globe. On the Grand Valley State women’s tennis squad, there is a wave of youth heading to the shore.

Once the wave hits the shoreline, it will not stop.

The GVSU women’s tennis squad enters the 2016 fall season primed for another conference title run. The defending regular season GLIAC champions will have a target on their back after sneaking up on most opponents last season.

“During last year’s strong season it seemed like we caught a few teams that weren’t expecting us to be as tough as we were,” said GVSU coach John Black. “This year, that’s not going to happen. We have to be ready because everybody will bring their A-games for us.”

Last season, the Lakers were made up entirely of underclassmen—there wasn’t a single junior or senior on the roster. With a full year of Division II tennis under their belts, the six freshmen from last season are now battle-hardened sophomores heading into GLIAC competition.

“Having that extra year is going to help us quite a bit,” Black said. “The players are more mature. They will be able to handle the pressure of having everyone set their sights on us.”

The four sophomores who return this fall as juniors for the squad will be the primary focus for most opponents, as they combined for 61 total match victories. Three of them—Abby Perkins, Alexa Sweeney and Aimee Moccia—controlled the Nos. 1-3 seeds last season in singles play. Rachel Sumner manned the No. 4 seed.

The pairing of Perkins and Livia Christman at the No. 3 seed (25-5) and the pairing of Sweeney and Madison Ballard at the No. 2 spot (22-6) led the way in doubles play. Doubles play was an unknown quantity heading into last season. Now, it’s a known strength heading into 2016.

The Lakers finished 24-7 last season and 10-1 in GLIAC matches, boasting a 9-0 record at home. The team fell one match short of winning the GLIAC tournament after losing to Northwood in the GLIAC final, who they shared the GLIAC regular season title with.

The key words for the 2016 Lakers are experience and leadership.

“We all share the leadership and responsibility on the team,” Perkins said. “It’s good that we have four juniors because we can all lead by committee. Not one person has to step up and lead the team alone.”

Down the stretch last season, the Lakers endured some bad luck with injuries. Black hopes the team can stay healthy, especially towards the end of the season.

The Lakers open their 2016 campaign against Michigan Tech Saturday, Sept. 10. The team’s first major test will come a week later on the road against Northwood Sunday, Sept. 18.

“We want to win every match and go undefeated like we almost did last season,” Moccia said. “We will have to consistently play well throughout the whole season. Everyone has to have the drive and the hunger to win, which every one of us do.”