Coming off a 4-12 record last season, it is no secret the Oswego State Lakers women’s tennis team is looking to improve moving forward.
When asked about his view on the team’s progress so far this season, head coach Shane Evans took a very optimistic stance.
“I feel great about the direction of the program. This year, I picked up Bridget Bender, Erin Vargo and Angela Gapa, three great freshmen who are going to take the team to new heights,” Evans said. “I think the team this year is a lot deeper talent wise and skill wise than last year and it’s already showing in our matches.”
Despite adding these qualities, the team got off to a rough start in it’s first match against SUNY Geneseo last Saturday, suffering a 9-0 defeat.
The next day, however, the team recovered and picked up it’s first victory against Elmira College with a 5-4 victory.
When asked if he noticed any differences in the way his team prepared for their match against Elmira, Evans boiled it down to the team just staying focused on the task at hand.
“I think we knew going into Elmira that it was close last time. We barely beat them last year, so I think going into it, we had a stronger mentality,” Evans said. “We needed to dig in more. We knew that, as opposed to Geneseo, who has a history of the conference, Elmira is this team that we don’t want to take lightly, but I honestly think we just stuck to our games, dug in, and fought hard.”
Two of the freshman Evans mentioned earlier, Bridget Bender and Erin Vargo, have already had a major impact on the team with their exceptional play. The best part for Evans is knowing they will still be around for a few more years.
“It’s very exciting. I was very impressed with their first matches even though it was a loss against [SUNY] Geneseo,” Evans said. “I saw a lot that I knew that I could improve upon in the years to come and a lot that is going to give back to the program. Some players like Bridget and Erin are gonna be steady players that [are going to] take this program to new heights.”
Bender won both of her matches against Elmira and was named Laker Athlete of the Week. When asked how it felt to not only to receive the honor, but to do so as a freshman, she was rather modest.
“[I’m] Super proud! It’s really cool to be able get that [honor] and show that my hard work has paid off,” Bender said. “Just stay focused and not get messed up in the mental game, because that’s, if anything, what I should work on.”
Evans, on the other hand, was a little more outgoing about her performance.
“[Bender was] very deserving of her recognition. She played out of her mind,” Evans said. “In fact, in doubles, as I came over to their match, they were ahead like instantly, probably like four or five games ahead of their opponents. Then, with her singles, I didn’t really have to do too much with because she’s such a steady, reliable player. She just knew her game, she studied her opponent, and she played out of her mind. It was awesome!”
Vargo, lost her doubles match but ended up as the deciding factor for the entire match against Elmira with her comeback victory in a singles match.
“I did like both matches. In fact, they were down early in the doubles and they came back and brought it back to like 6-7 and they eventually lost,” Evans said. “They did change up their games a little and I think that little comeback in the doubles helped her for the singles.”
The women’s tennis team came away with another 5-4 victory in the most recent match on Wednesday against Utica College.
The Lakers next match takes place on Saturday against SUNY Oneonta 11:00 a.m. at Romney Tennis Courts.
Photo: Haofeng Deng | The Oswegonian