Cheney, Wash. – After a regular season filled with challenging competition and superb individual performances, the young Eastern Washington University women's tennis team is already beginning to plan for next year, eager and excited to for the future.
While Eastern (5-16) did not make the Big Sky Conference Championship in 2015, the Eagles had flashes of greatness against numerous tough opponents throughout the year, as a number of players picked up impressive wins. "While we didn't have the outcome we planned with the number of wins and our potential number of wins, we had some great individual performances from everyone – top to bottom," said third-year head coach Dustin Hinson.
"We certainly have a young team," said Hinson. "With that in mind, I was really happy with the way everyone performed. Our biggest issue this year was getting all of our great individual performances to happen at the same time - that's why we had so many close matches. We were right there, however. We definitely improved this year and that is encouraging moving forward into the future."
Despite having several players earn stellar singles and doubles victories, the biggest advance for EWU this year was its development of team cohesion and effort. "Our main highpoint, which came in off the court, was our progress in building what it means to be an Eagle women's tennis player," said Hinson. "The mental side of things was key for us. We grew tremendously this year as far as our fight, effort, and grittiness that we have out there on the court. All of that was a result of putting our creed together, and establishing what it means to be a part of this team and university. We are right at our threshold point. Our momentum is building, and that is what is exciting."
Moving into the offseason after a year in which the team grew mentally tough, Eastern plans on using its downtime to improve every single aspect of its game, especially on the physical end of the spectrum. "We have great goals coming in, which are not just outcome based, especially after we set our foundation and base this year," said Hinson. "Our offseason is a time for us to work on our conditioning and fitness goals, while we continue to maintain our rhythm on the court. Now is the time where we can really work on our endurance levels, so when we come back in the fall, we are in the best condition we can be. Since we are at that tipping point, with everyone improving from the previous year and coming into next season ready to go, we are expecting to do big things."
Leading the 2015 season that was filled with individual high points was freshman Janaya Smith, a Kingston, Tasmania, native who finished the year with an impressive singles record of 12-9, the best on the team. "Janaya exceeded expectations on and off the court," said Hinson, "She is just a fantastic individual," said Hinson. "She is so humble and goes out and gives her best – that is all you can ask for as a coach."
Smith, who played primarily at the number one position, also won a single Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award early in the season. "She didn't know coming in where she would fall in the lineup, but just came and gave her best. She took that number one spot on without any fear."
In addition to Smith, Eastern's roster for its spring slate consisted of no juniors or seniors, containing four sophomores and a single freshman.
Rachel Swindell, EWU's second freshman, competed for a majority of the season at the number three spot before suffering from injuries late in the year, earning five singles and five doubles wins. "Both of our freshmen came in this year and had to do some difficult stuff by playing in the upper half of the lineup," said Hinson. "While that is not something you don't necessarily want your freshman to do, they stepped up and did a great job."
With the second best singles record on the team, sophomore Carolina Lopez finished the year at 9-10, a mark that was comprised of wins from mostly the sixth position. "Carolina did a great job as a sophomore, who had a sort of freshman experience in her second year," said Hinson. "She beat some really good players on good teams, defeating Washington State and Idaho, while taking her opponent from UNLV to a real close third-set tiebreaker."
Following Lopez, sophomores Katrina Domingo and Dani Young finished 2015 with the singles records of 7-12, and 6-15, respectively. In doubles, both players combined for fifteen doubles wins across multiple pairings. "Katrina had a great year while she was stepping up her belief in her game," said Hinson. "She learned to not to be tentative, and started trusting her ability to move forward. She realized that when she plays that way, she is actually better."
"It was the same thing with Dani," stated Hinson. "She started out at a lower point in the lineup toward the beginning of the year, but moved up as time progressed and as she improved."
Fellow sophomore Erin Blessing finished her year with a singles record of 5-15, while closing out the year on a high note. "Erin finished off strong," said Hinson. "While everyone had ups and downs, she struggled in the middle of the season, but regained her confidence at the end by competing really well. She is one of those kinds of players that can really beat anybody."
Despite being unable to play in 2015, Eastern's lone senior, Moira Hedberg, played a vital leadership role on the team despite having to redshirt due to injury. "Moira was a great help during this year," said Hinson. "It was like having an assistant throughout season. Due to her experience, she knows the system and is great at encouraging the team. Coming into next year, it will be good to have her back because everyone knows it is her last year. She wants it to be the absolute best that it can be. "
In anticipation of the next season, returning every single member of the team, the Eagles believe they will be even better, utilizing the hard work that has been put in the past two years. "It looks great moving forward, and like I've said before – our day is coming," said Hinson. "I know the team believes in next year and our ability to do well. We know we are going to be that much better because we were so close this year. Everyone is improving and that helps everyone step up together. I've told the team that I just want us to go out there and be fearless."
After an upcoming offseason filled with intense training, the EWU women's tennis team believes they will certainly being making an impact in the season to come. Using preparation and resiliency, Hinson and the Eagles are looking forward to a future of success, excited about what their progress will hold.