Despite the young athletes on the Concordia women’s tennis team, the Bulldogs proved to be a GPAC contender in the 2016 season. With a squad made up of all freshmen and sophomores, the victories will give the team confidence heading into the next season. Head coach Joel Reckewey’s team went 5-3 in the conference and 8-15 overall this year.
The Bulldogs season started off on a bit of a rough patch, losing nine of their first 10. The first victory of the season came on Feb. 13 over Bethany College 8-1. Before conference play opened, Concordia defeated one more opponent 9-0 on March 10.
On facing such a tough schedule before conference action began, Reckewey said, “The women’s team is a strong but very young team as it is made up of primarily sophomore and freshman players. In building a program, it is very important to expose them to a higher level of play so we’re building the team up. If they have those experiences they will be aware of where the program is going.”
Once the GPAC season opened, the Bulldogs found their groove and went 5-3 in the conference. One of the losses was by one point and the other two were to the eventual GPAC champs and runner-up teams. Concordia’s GPAC victories were by a combined 28-20.
Individually, there were several breakout seasons for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Annie Horn carried success from last season into the 2016 year. Horn played all singles matches at either No. 1 or 2 and went 9-11 overall and 5-3 in the conference. In the last 10 matches of the season, Horn won six. Horn was named to the honorable mention all-conference team for both singles and doubles play.
Reckewey said, “We knew she was going to be solid because she did great last year at No. 1 singles and then have her come back this year and maintain her high level of play is awesome.”
Making impressive freshman debuts were Kayla Smock and Katelinn Wurm. Smock was 5-2 in the conference and 8-10 overall. Playing most of her matches at the No. 6 position, Smock went 6-1. Wurm was 4-6 in the league with several close losses. Wurm has gained experience playing at the No. 2 and 3 positon during the season. Six of her matches went into a third, tie-breaker set, three of which she won.
“Katelinn’s confidence really increased throughout the season,” Reckewey said. “She’s a fast learner and she tuned in really well to her game later in the season. She has a lot of loyalty and buys into the program. She was really the glue in the middle of the lineup that held the team together.
“Kayla was an absolute shining star that came out of nowhere. She found a way to find her spot and play well and produce the results we needed. She was very comfortable there and very competitive to get those results. She stepped up in a big way for us.”
With no Bulldogs graduating this year, the team is looking to propel into next season with even higher expectations. Reckewey said, “Those experiences will help to maintain that high level of play we expect and be successful.”