The WSU tennis squad will start their quest to become a nationally-ranked team as they kickoff their spring season today at the Hawai’i Invitational in Honolulu.
“Our main goal is to get to postseason, and working towards that needs to start now,” Head Coach Lisa Hart said. “We need to get after it in our non-conference schedule in the next couple weeks. We want to finish the regular season ranked in the top 30. If we do that, we’ll make it to postseason and go from there.”
Cougar tennis will join Hawai’i, Kansas and Kentucky at the invitational, which will conclude on Saturday. Though the tournament will only count for individual records, Hart hopes to build momentum and confidence, as well as gain experience going into the dual-match season.
“It will be nice to get some outdoor court time at this time in the season. Usually we don’t get outside till February or March,” Hart said.
After a solid, individual fall season, WSU has high hopes for reaching new level of success. Last year they climbed as high as No. 71 in the national rankings.
“I’m excited to see every single player on the tennis court. We haven’t been in this spot for a long time,” Hart said. “I think everyone’s going to share the spotlight this year and different players will step up on different days. In the past we’ve had one or two kids who had to win because they were our hope for winning the dual. This year we feel like we can rely on everyone.”
Hart, who is in her ninth season as the head coach in Pullman, said her team’s chemistry from freshman to senior is a big reason WSU can break into the top 30. The numbers don’t seem to contradict that statement. Three Cougars from three different classes earned pre-season national rankings: senior Elisabeth Fournier, junior LiudmilaVasilieva and freshman ElizavetaLuzina.
“Our freshmen have come along a lot sooner than I anticipated,"Hart said. "I think that’s a tribute to our juniors and seniors. The upperclassmen have really helped the freshmen get acclimated quickly. When I look around practice I used to be able to really pick out the upperclassmen from the freshmen, but that’s not the case this year.”
As always, the Cougars will be playing in a tough Pac-12 Conference. Last year, six Pac-12 squads finished in the top 30. However a group of upperclassmen who have spent their careers near the bottom of conference rankings are looking for that to change in the next few months.
“Our upperclassmen are very determined to have a good year,” Hart said. “The younger players see that and feed off that. When your upperclassmen are that determined, as a freshman you feel that energy and you step your own game up.”
WSU will see their first dual-match of the season in Pullman next Thursday in a doubleheader versus Lewis-Clark State at 9 a.m. and Idaho at 2 p.m. However their biggest test will come Sunday, Jan. 22 when they host the nationally-ranked Sacramento State Hornets. Sunday's contest will also give fans a chance to get a free Cougar Tennis t-shirt if they bring in used racquets that will be donated a school in Kenya.