Head Coach: David DeSimone (15-6, 2nd season)
2019 record: 15-6 overall, 5-2 GPAC (3rd); GPAC tournament runner up
Key returners: Angela Bell (Sr.); Allison Marshall (Jr.); Claudia Miranda Viera (Jr.); Kirsten Wagner (Sr.).
Key losses: Marlene Maier; Katelinn Wurm.
Key Newcomers: Tara Ferrel; Madisen Smith.
2019 GPAC All-Conference: David DeSimone (coach of the year); Angela Bell (singles); Marlene Maier (singles/doubles); Allison Marshall (singles; doubles honorable mention); Claudia Miranda Viera (singles/doubles); Kirsten Wagner (singles; doubles honorable mention); Katelinn Wurm (singles honorable mention).
By just about any measure, the 2019 campaign was the greatest in Concordia University women’s tennis history. Behind star senior Marlene Maier, the Bulldogs broke a school record for wins in a single season while coming up an eyelash short of winning the GPAC tournament championship. Along the way, Concordia defeated opponents from the NAIA and NCAA Division II and III levels. It surely makes for a difficult act to follow.
Thankfully, GPAC Coach of the Year David DeSimone boasts a roster with impressive depth, which will help make up for the graduation of Maier, who went 17-3 last season in singles matches.
“It was just everything coming together at the right times,” DeSimone said. “I wish I could take more credit for it, but I can’t. We just had a lot of great people and great players on the team that put in the work. That’s really what it came down to. They were willing and able to work, learn and grow. We had some tough losses in there and we took them and learned from them. Each time out we wanted to make sure we didn’t make the same mistakes.”
This past fall, the Bulldogs started things off impressively by toppling NCAA D-II William Jewell College (Mo.), 6-1. In the GPAC preseason ratings, Concordia was shown respect by landing at No. 2. While Maier has departed, the program welcomes back three players who notched more than 10 singles victories in 2019: junior Allison Marshall (13-7) and seniors Angela Bell (12-3) and Kirsten Wagner (12-7). Junior Claudia Miranda Viera also returns after holding down the No. 2 spot for most of last season.
Wagner got the nod at the No. 1 spot in both singles and doubles in the match at William Jewell. The York, Neb., native has been a constant in the lineup and one of the reasons why the Bulldogs have trended upward over the past few seasons. She is fully aware that she will have to remain at a high level if she’s going to stay near the top of the lineup.
“We all know that there’s a lot of depth in our team so everybody comes ready to practice and ready to show that they want to be one of those top six or top eight people that are traveling and playing,” Wagner said. “Coach tells us, ‘Your spot isn’t guaranteed.’ You may play in this first match but you have to keep showing up to practice and putting in work if you want to keep that spot.”
There’s too much talent and experience for this Concordia team not to be a force within the conference, but can it unseat GPAC favorite Hastings? The Broncos clipped the Bulldogs, 5-4, in last year’s GPAC championship match that featured an epic battle in No. 1 singles that decided the title. Concordia was just that close to earning a trip to Mobile, Ala., for the NAIA National Championships.
Junior Ansley Gates is another veteran who contributed to that run. DeSimone also brought in newcomers like Tara Ferrel and Madi Smith to further fortify the roster. Both freshmen are still waiting for their first taste of a collegiate dual match. They’ve joined a program that now has considerably higher expectations than normal at the beginning of a season.
“I think it really boosted our confidence,” said Wagner of the 2019 season. “The ending was a little bittersweet. It left us hungry for more, which is really propelling us into this season. (Expecations) are as high as it gets for us right now … We have a really big shot this year.”
Last season represented an important breakthrough for the program that showed just how close it is to winning a championship. Said DeSimone, “I’m really excited about the depth that we have on the women’s side. We saw that at the fall tournaments that we played. Realistically, three through nine are pretty even on any given day. There are a lot of good things happening. We’ll just see how it all comes together.”
Added the second-year head coach, “There are a lot of good teams in conference for both men and women so we’ll have to be playing our best tennis each day.”
Action will resume on Saturday when the Bulldogs will host Grand View University (Iowa) inside the Fieldhouse. First serve of the women’s match is set for 12 p.m. CT.