Women’s tennis dominates in season opener

Anna Soldner

Despite first-match nerves and an exceptionally young roster, the UW-Eau Claire women’s tennis team kicked off the season with back-to-back wins in Iowa last Saturday.The Blugolds began the double header by shutting out the University of Dubuque (Iowa) 9-0 and later maintained strong momentum with a 7-0 victory over Loras College (Iowa).In every singles match they played, the Blugolds gave up no more than two games.At the No. 5 singles slot, freshman Maddie Johnson managed to replace initial jitters with aggression and crush her Dubuque opponent 6-0, 6-0.

“It was my first college match, so I wasn’t quite sure what the competition would be like,” Maddie said. “I was kind of nervous about it, but it ended up to work out.”

Junior and co-captain Gretchen Bachmeier also proved victorious in straight set wins against the Loras’ No. 2 singles player. She said she countered the challenge of playing on an indoor surface by concentrating on positional serving, varied shots during rallies, and, most importantly, getting her first serve in bounds.

“Overall I’m happy with how I played,” Bachmeier said. “I owe a lot to my serve … for winning it in that manner. My serve was a key factor.”

Over in the doubles court, Eau Claire continued to crush competition with a six match clean-sweep. Two notable players, freshman and sophomore No. 4 doubles duo Renee Nelson and Stephanie Wolf, joined efforts to create an 8-0 victory against Dubuque.

“We were really nervous because it was Renee’s first match,” Wolf said. “We kind of beat ourselves up because we didn’t hit our strokes as well, but we finally found a rhythm, communicated really well and worked together to get our strokes to be what they usually are.”

Johnson and Nelson are two of five freshman on a team comprised of 10 underclassmen and only two junior players.

Coach Tom Gillman views the fairly inexperienced lineup not as a disadvantage, but rather as an opportunity to build for the future.

“We’re still trying to build this program, and we’re in an enviable position to be able to potentially bring back quite a few girls over the next year or two,” he said.

The Blugolds will return to Decorah, Iowa next weekend to face Luther College (Iowa) at 9 a.m. and St. Benedict (Minn.) at noon.

While Bachmeier said the players find winning the first matches to be a significant confidence booster, they agree that staying focused and competitive is crucial to future success.

“Everyone on our team has high amounts of potential,” Bachmeier said. “The freshmen that we brought in have a lot of talent, and I’m excited for what we’ll be able to accomplish not only this season but next season as well.”

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