At a glance
Graduate Asst. Coach: James Ingrahm (2nd year)
2013 Record: 5-11 overall, 1-4 GPAC (5th)
Returning Starters: Jonathan Douglas, Joel Kaldahl, Mike McCartney, Nathan Wingfield
Key Losses: Cole Egger, Joe Vanderveld
Key Newcomers: Patricio Esquivel, Javier Moreno, Philip Yox
2013 GPAC All-Conference: Cole Egger (honorable mention singles), Jonathan Douglas (honorable mention doubles), Joe Vanderveld (honorable mention doubles)
Graduate Asst. Coach: James Ingrahm (2nd year)
2013 Record: 12-7 overall, 5-2 GPAC (3rd)
Returning Starters: Grace Hollenbeck, Katelyn Koll, Elyse Kohl
Key Losses: Mikaela Barz, Chelsea Haack, Lindsea Vaudt
Key Newcomers: Megan Burgdorf, Christine Ruskamp, Laura Sattler
2013 GPAC All-Conference: Katelyn Koll (No. 1 singles, No. 1 doubles), Lindsea Vaudt (No. 1 doubles)
--Honorable mention – Grace Hollenbeck (singles); Mikaela Barz (singles)
The Bulldog women’s tennis program has been a model of consistency over the past several seasons, establishing itself as one of the top dogs in the GPAC. Now the men’s program may be catching up by way of an influx of talent brought in with the help of graduate assistant coach James Ingrahm, currently the sole member of the tennis coaching staff.
While small in numbers, the class of new recruits is high on quality. After a 5-11 record last season, the Bulldog men are confident in a bounce back. They return senior Nathan Wingfield (No. 1 singles) and welcome impact freshmen Patricio Esquivel and Javier Moreno, both natives of Morelia, Mexico.
The infusion of talent combined with a strenuous offseason of training has Ingrahm looking forward to the start of the season.
“We had a great offseason,” Ingrahm said of both tennis squads. “We trained really hard on and off the court. Coach (Amy) Harms puts together a pretty rigorous lifting and agility schedule. It translated directly to this season. All of the players are looking stronger, they’re looking fitter, they’re looking faster. We’re very excited for the 2014 season.”
Wingfield, a native of Greendale, Wis., moved up to No. 1 singles last season as a junior. Though he struggled to win matches, the experience figures to make him a much improved player at the top of Concordia’s lineup this season. He’s more relaxed entering his final season and has a better grasp on what it takes to be successful.
“I think the toughest thing about last year was transitioning from 3 singles to 1 singles,” Wingfield said. “I think I put too much pressure on myself to play perfect tennis when the reality was I didn't need to do that.
“I think I've learned that I don't have to hit great shots all the time and hopefully this year I can play smarter and win a few more matches even if they aren't as clean as I would like.”
Moreno and Esquivel are the frontrunners to fall next in line after Wingfield in the singles order. Both have earned high praise from Ingrahm for their quick adaption to life at Concordia and for what they provide on the court.
“My goal is for them to get comfortable in the first couple matches and continue to play better all the time,” Ingrahm said. “Hopefully whatever number they’re playing they will become very successful at playing those positions.”
With Moreno and Esquivel sliding into those two and three slots, the Bulldogs believe their lineup will be much more competitive from top to bottom. The freshman duo has caught the attention of the veteran Wingfield.
“With Javier and Patricio coming in and being near the top of the lineup, I think we will fare a lot better,” Wingfield said. “Now we have people moving down in the line-up to places where I think they will have a lot of success. Javier and Patricio have looked really good so far in practice and hopefully it will translate to wins on the court.”
Wingfield is far from the only experienced member of the lineup. There are also seniors Joel Kaldahl and Mike McCartney who were both mainstays for the 2013 Bulldogs. Junior Jonathan Douglas, a GPAC doubles honorable mention selection last year, will also compete for a spot towards the end of the lineup along with sophomore Philip Yox.
As far as doubles go, Concordia will have to develop new chemistry as its 1 and 3 spots from last season have been broken up by the graduations of Cole Egger (No. 1) and Joe Vanderveld (No. 3). Kaldahl and McCartney teamed at No. 2 last season and are a likely pair again in 2014.
Things look different on the women’s side where senior Katelyn Koll and juniors Grace Hollenbeck and Elyse Kohl represent the only experienced players. Koll is the most accomplished having received all-conference recognition at both the No. 1 singles and doubles positions the last two years running. She’s the leader of a women’s tennis program that is 41-14 (.745) in GPAC matches over the past seven years.
At 20-12 overall with a combined GPAC record of 11-3 the last two years, the 6-foot Koll stands tall in more ways than one. A productive offseason should make the Wilber, Neb., native an even bigger threat this time around.
“My overall fitness has been a major focus of mine in the off season,” Koll said. “I want to be able to end long points and long games just as strong as I start them and good fitness is a key factor in that. I have also just been working to improve my overall form of my strokes to clean up my game as much as possible.”
Hollenbeck (2013 honorable mention all-conference in singles) went 10-7 in singles last season while playing all of her matches at the No. 4 position. Meanwhile, Kohl went 4-4 while playing exclusively at No. 5 singles. Both will move up in the pecking order as Concordia loses Chelsea Haack (12-7 at No. 2) and Lindsea Vaudt (10-9 at No. 3) from the 2013 lineup.
“They work really hard as well,” Ingrahm said of Hollenbeck and Kohl. “It’s really great to see that every single day you can see them working on different things and getting better all the time. They’re improving as players on and off the court.”
The development of newcomers will be paramount on the women’s side as the team moves forward with a roster short on numbers. The trio of Megan Burgdorf, Laura Sattler and Christine Ruskamp will be thrown immediately into the fire.
The turnover also means that all three of Concordia’s doubles pairs from last season have been fractured, making it a tall order to duplicate its 2013 combined doubles record of 32-25.
Both Ingrahm and the players are upfront about the challenges that lie in wait.
“The top of our lineup should do very well in all of our matches,” Koll said. “Getting the new girls we picked up acclimated to playing tennis in a college setting will definitely take some time. My goals for our women's team are for the top three positions to have overall winning records and to hopefully gain a couple victories as a team.”
The Bulldog men get their season started on Sunday with a match against Simpson College (Iowa) in Lincoln. The women open the 2013 season on Saturday, March 1, when both teams host Tabor College inside the Walz Field House.
“This year we’ve wasted no time,” Ingrahm said. “Everyone is where they need to be. Instead of spending time on working on certain areas technically, we’ve put more time into strategy and winning points. Everyone is match ready and ready to go.”