The Young and the Restless

Story by Eric Larson

“Stepping up to the big plate” was the motto for the Eau Claire women’s tennis team this weekend as they went one and one in back-to-back matches; Friday, with a 4-5 loss against the College of St. Scholastica (Minn.) and Saturday with a 6-3 victory over St. Catherine’s University (Minn.)

Head coach Tom Gillman said that despite the team’s young roster — five freshmen, two sophomores and one junior — their performance was impressive; the number of young members has allowed many players to take on bigger positions, he said.

“This team plays a little beyond their years — they’re positive, have great attitudes … the results so far have been better than expected,” he said.

Friday’s match against St. Scholastica, despite ending in a Blugold loss, was an important learning experience going into the team’s spring season, said junior and “team elder,”
Emily Hiebl.

“It was a close match, and we all played well,” she said. “We had a big group talk after the match — mainly about how to be better at managing ourselves on the court — and we all took it to heart; Saturday definitely proved that.”

Saturday’s match against St. Catherine’s certainly did show improvement, as the team left with a victory, pulling their overall season record up to 11-6.

“I’m pretty happy with every aspect of my game (on Saturday),” said sophomore Taylor Heltne, who plays No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles alongside freshman Katie Gillman. “I really strived on putting pressure on my opponents — I played how I know I can play.”

Heltne and Gillman lost their doubles match 8-4 to Michaela Burroughs and Danielle Munsterman of St. Catherine’s, but were both able to come back with victories in singles play. Heltne had a 6-3, 4-6, 10-3 win over St. Catherine’s Lauren Beadnell, and Gillman (No. 2 singles) had a 6-3, 6-2 blow-out over Burroughs.

“Despite losing in doubles, I’m glad we were both able to come back later,” Heltne said. “I really had a chance to redeem myself and not dwell on the loss.”

Other highlights of Saturday included sophomore Gretchen Bachmeier (No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles) winning both matches: first, with an 8-2 sweep over Beadnell and Skye Coughlin with freshman partner Mary Frassetto and following with a close, but ultimately fruitful win — 3-6, 6-0, 10-8 — over St. Catherine’s Kasie Rust.

“I’m really proud of Mary and myself,” she said. “We stayed very calm and focused. Our biggest weakness is when we get too frantic and caught up in little things, but we were relaxed the entire match. That really turned out well.”

Although the team’s young roster might seem like a handicap to some, Heltne said the youth of the squad has ultimately given them more advantages than anything.

“It’s given us such a chance to bond; to really play for each other and stay close,” she said. “It’s also given a lot of our younger players the chance to step up to bigger positions. Really, none of us even consider anyone a freshman anymore — we’re all just one team, and we’re doing well.”

The team will head to Northfield, Minn. tomorrow to take on St. Olaf College. Matches begin at 4 p.m.