Coach: Javier Moreno
2018 record: 13-10 overall, 3-4 GPAC (5th)
Key returners: Allison Marshall (So.); Claudia Miranda Viera (So.); Kirsten Wagner (So.); Katelinn Wurm (Jr.).
Key losses: Alison Ebel; Annie Horn; Kayla Smock.
Newcomers: Lyric Allen; Luisa Esquival Bustamante; Megan Hakes; Katelyn Krejci; Britney Lewis; Marlene Maier; Gabrielle Moseley.
2018 GPAC All-Conference: Alison Ebel (singles; doubles honorable mention); Annie Horn (singles); Claudia Miranda Viera (singles honorable mention); Kayla Smock (singles honorable mention; doubles honorable mention).
An impactful transfer and a large roster are two dynamics in play for a Concordia University women’s tennis program on the cusp of this spring’s first serve. Recent CUNE graduate Javier Moreno has taken the lead for the Bulldogs, who will move on without All-GPAC performer Annie Horn. She went a combined 28-11 in singles matches over her junior and senior seasons. Despite her graduation, there are plenty of options to fill out a lineup.
Sophomore Claudia Miranda Viera is back in the fold after collecting singles honorable mention all-conference accolades. Returners Allison Marshall, Kirsten Wagner and Katelinn Wurm were also regulars in the 2018 lineup.
“We’ve made some changes but we just want to keep going with what we’ve been working on,” Moreno said. “I think this next season will be different from the past few years. We’ve worked so hard and we’re seeing a huge difference in how our players are performing. They notice it too.”
There is one big reason in particular that gives credibility to the thought that Concordia will be improved in 2019. The Bulldogs welcomed in transfer Marlene Maier, who played three seasons at NCAA Division I Alcorn State University (Miss.). The native of Uppsala, Sweden, has seemingly raised the level of everyone at practice. Maier immediately gravitated to the No. 1 spot in the singles lineup in a 5-4 win over Central College (Iowa) back on Sept. 8.
Maier says that things have gone smoothly in terms of acclimating to new surroundings and new teammates. Maier is actually one of seven new faces within the women’s tennis program.
“I think it’s worked really well,” Maier said. “We have a lot of new players. I’m a transfer and we have a lot of freshmen. I think the whole team atmosphere is a little bit different from last year from what I understand. We’re starting to really get to know each other well. The atmosphere is really coming together.”
In addition to defeating Central during the abbreviated fall season, Concordia competed at the GPAC Invite in the middle of September. Maier will likely be motivated by her defeat in the championship match in Flight A of the singles bracket. Maier also teamed up with Wagner to advance to the semifinals in Flight A of doubles. In addition, sophomore Ansley Gates reached the title match in Flight C of singles.
The singles lineup in the win over Central featured Maier at the top along with Miranda Viera, Wurm, Wagner, Kayla Smock (no longer a member of the team) and Marshall. Wurm produced a win at No. 3. Miranda Viera’s 11 singles victories last season were second on the team behind Horn. Maier is ready to handle the pressure of being at No. 1.
“Of course there’s pressure, but I think my experience from my last three years has really taught me not to stress out about those kinds of things,” Maier said. “I think I’ve embraced it well so far. I just need to play my game.”
One goal Maier and company have for this season is to break through and reach the GPAC tournament title match. In each of the past three seasons, Concordia has seen its season end in the conference semifinals. In last season’s semifinal round, the Bulldogs fell by a 5-3 score to conference co-regular season champion Midland. Miranda Viera earned a win at the No. 3 singles spot in that match.
The 2018 Concordia squad played 23 total matches and broke a program record by winning 13 of them. The Bulldogs are still in search of that first bid to the NAIA national championships. With Maier on board, they will expect more than what was accomplished in 2018.
“We have high chances of doing better than previous years,” Moreno said. “We want to at least reach the conference final. It’s not just based on what I’ve seen in this team, it’s also based on the results we had in the GPAC individual tournament. I believe we can compete with anybody.”
Concordia will begin the spring season on Friday by playing at Grand View University (Iowa). First serve is set for 11 a.m. CST.