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SEASON PREVIEW: 2018 women's tennis

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 2, 2018 in Women's Tennis

Head coach: Joel Reckewey (4th year)
2017 record: 9-13 overall, 3-4 GPAC (T-4th)
Key returners: Alison Ebel (Sr.); Annie Horn (Sr.); Kayla Smock (Jr.); Kirsten Wagner (So.); Katelinn Wurm (Jr.)
Key loss: Katie Hertz
Newcomers: Ansley Gates; Allison Marshall; Claudia Miranda Viera; Cora Rhode; Katie Seja; Sarah Woodward
2017 GPAC All-Conference: Annie Horn (singles/doubles); Kirsten Wagner (doubles)

Based on the final month of the 2017 season, Concordia women’s tennis appears that it may be ready for a breakthrough. Prior to their conference tournament semifinal loss to GPAC champion Hastings, the Bulldogs won four of five matches. Not long before, they dropped a narrow 5-4 decision at the hands of Doane, which lost only one conference match in 2017.

With nearly all of their key returners back in place, the Bulldogs triumphed in two of three outings this past fall, turning in wins over Kansas Wesleyan University and Nebraska Wesleyan. There’s momentum inside the program under fourth-year head coach Joel Reckewey, now assisted by Nikita Kostikov.

Said Reckewey, “I was impressed with their ability to take the court and be business-like and play smart tennis with a positive attitude. Obviously Annie Horn is leading this group of players. We have some confidence and now we have some depth. That’s really bolstered our team. I think we can go out and have a successful season.”

Now in her final semester as a Bulldog, Horn is ready for another big season after recording a 15-4 singles record as a junior. She ended the campaign with a 13-match win streak. Having recorded her 30th career singles win back in the fall, Horn stands out as one of the program’s more accomplished tennis players in recent years.

“As far as I’m concerned, she’s playing the best tennis she has her entire career,” Reckewey said. “This is going to be fun for Annie to take the court. She’s playing No. 1 singles and she’s playing well. She’s confident. I’m really excited to coach her and I’m looking forward to her final season.”

Four of Horn’s teammates possess extensive college experience: senior Alison Ebel, juniors Kayla Smock and Katelinn Wurm and sophomore Kirsten Wagner. As doubles partners, Horn and Wagner combined to go 6-0 against GPAC competition last season. Additionally, Smock and Wurm have a strong bond and are extremely familiar with playing with one another on the doubles court. As a freshman, Wagner played mostly at No. 5 singles, where she went 8-7.

Then there are the freshmen, who make up a large chunk of the roster. Among them, Ansley Gates (Lincoln), Allison Marshall (Woodbury, Minn.) and Claudia Miranda Viera (Madrid, Spain) each competed in matches back in September with all three picking up their first career collegiate wins. Miranda Viera even got a chance to play at the No. 1 singles spot. Gates, a Lincoln Southwest High School product, came up with a tournament championship during the fall season.

According to Horn, the increased practice time this offseason is paying off. Those practice start times can vary from 6 a.m. all the way to 7 p.m. Horn says they’ll do “whatever we have to do.”

Continued Horn, “We’ve increased our practices by double from what we had in previous years. That will just help us go into every match knowing we’ve worked for it and we deserve it as much as the person on the other side of the court.”

If ever lack of motivation, or senioritis, creeps in for Horn, all she has to do is think about how her collegiate career is dwindling away. The light at the end of the tunnel suddenly visible, Horn’s perspective is changing.

“It makes me appreciate 6 a.m. practices a lot more than I would have in previous years,” Horn said. “Every moment I’m on the court I’m trying to take advantage and appreciate every single minute that I have with my team left. It is my last season so I’m motivated to go into it wholeheartedly.”

Based upon last year’s final standings, Concordia must climb above Hastings, Doane and Morningside if it wishes to taste championship glory. It would be a good start in working towards that aim if the Bulldogs can open up the spring on a positive note. It all gets started on Saturday, Feb. 10 when the Bulldogs take on Grand View University in Lincoln.