With the regular season set to begin on Sunday, the Stetson women’s tennis team is ready to take on the challenges that 2014 will have in store for them. After compiling an 11-10 overall record and a 5-3 mark in the Atlantic Sun Conference, the Hatters went all the way to the conference semifinals in 2013 before bowing out to ETSU.
Stetson enters this year led by a trio of seniors in Lindsey Cable, MayaBlue Stauffer-MacDowell and 2013 A-Sun All-Conference Second Team member Diana Bukajeva, but the Hatters also welcome in four freshmen and a sophomore transfer in Cari Berry.
“We are looking forward to seeing them in competition,” said Stetson Director of Tennis Pierre Pilote. “I think Diana’s leadership as captain is going to help a lot and as a coach you know that the seniors’ careers are going to come to an end, which is sad but I am really going to try and appreciate every moment that they are on the court.”
Stetson’s freshman quartet is comprised of Isabella Fernandez (Caracas, Venezuela), Marta Gonzalez (Vigo, Spain), Brittany Hill (Chapel Hill, N.C.) and Carolina Meregalli (Milan, Italy). They will join last year’s A-Sun All-Freshman team members Eveline Lepinay and Andrea Crespo to form a talented crop of underclassmen. Two integral parts of the 2013 team that have since seen their four-year careers come to a close are Sara Lazarevic and Jen Miller, who last season earned Second Team All-Conference Honors.
“It is of course big when you lose two integral parts of the team, but we recruited four freshmen that are working extremely hard and are highly motivated,” Pilote explained. “We will have 13 young women on our team with the addition of Cari Berry, so we have a very deep squad.”
Stetson wrapped up a successful fall campaign following trips to the College of Charleston Invitational (Sept. 20 – 22), the Wake Forest Invite (Sept. 27 -29), Florida State’s Bedford Cup (Oct. 10 – 13) and the Georgia Southern Invite (Oct. 25 – 27).
“The fall went well and we had some players that did well,” said Pilote. “The team had good results in each of the tournaments and we learned about our new freshmen. I think they also learned about the level of Division I and what they are going to be competing against in the spring.”
With more than a dozen players vying for a position in the starting lineup, the fall slate prepared Pilote’s team for a challenging 2014 schedule, which pits them against No. 24 ranked Florida State right out of the gate.
“The spring schedule is strong and we start with a team that is 24th in the country,” Pilote said of FSU. “But again with the deep squad that we have, we are looking for players to elevate their level of play and seize that opportunity.”
After taking on the Seminoles and Florida A&M in Tallahassee (Jan. 19), the Hatters hit the road for a match at Georgia Southern (Jan. 25) before hosting their home opener against South Alabama, Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Mandy Stoll Tennis Center.
“This group should have an excellent chance of making the [A-Sun] final and winning the conference because of their depth,” Pilote said. “But it is really up to our student-athletes to elevate their game to make that happen.”
The 2014 A-Sun Tournament will be held April 18-20, in Jacksonville.