Women’s tennis optimistic for new year

By Matt Levine

The UK women’s tennis team took its first steps of the season last weekend in two tournaments in Lawrence, Kan., and Dublin, Ohio.

The team split up with six players participating in the Kansas tournament and three in the Ohio.

UK head coach Carlos Drada said he was impressed with his squad but admits there is room for improvement.

“There are some things we are doing really well, and I think it is a matter of patience and time as a team to capitalize on them,” Drada said.

Sophomores Khristina Blajkevitch and Cece Witten made a splash at the Kansas tournament, finishing fifth.

Junior Jessica Stiles and sophomore Caitlin McGraw triumphed in their first round matchup in the Ohio tournament, but fell to a doubles team from the University of Akron, 8-5, in the second round.

Stiles, the oldest player on the team, agreeed with Drada that the team needs to improve, but is content with the first round wins.

“There are still some things we need to work on, but to get first round wins was definitely a positive thing,” Stiles said.

The women have one of their youngest teams ever — Stiles is the only junior — while the rest of the squad consists of sophomores and freshmen.

Although the team does not possess a definite captain, Drada said Stiles is the closest thing to a captain.

“It is such a big team and there are girls who exhibit strengths on the team, but the person closest to the captain’s role is our upperclassman, Jessica Stiles,”  Drada said. “She is in charge of communicating with the coaches and the players.”

Based on the tournaments, Stiles believes that the team needs the most improvement on the mental aspect of the game.

“The things we need to work on are our attitude on the court, try and be more confident in ourselves, and be more positive out there,” Stiles said.

Drada agreed and said that the team will do everything it needs to do to progress in its mental game.

“We just have to get more disciplined when it comes to pressure and how to deal with pressure situations,” Drada said. “We are just going to work really hard to get where we need to be.”

Although it is tough to not find immediate success, Stiles said she is glad that the team has identified what it needs to work on so early in the season.

“We have a clear picture on what we need to improve upon and I think that is really good to know at the beginning of the year because we will be able to work towards those goals and support each other to get there,” Stiles said.

Drada said he has high expectations for the season as long as the team heeds advice from him and his assistant coaches.

“I really think we can do well if the young players decide to pay attention to the principles that we try to teach them and actually implement them,” Drada said. “Once we do that, we have enough firepower to do really well.”