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ISSUE 116 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/7/2003

Different Strokes

By Ken Foote
Sports Editor

Friday, March 7, 2003

While various winter sports were completing the missions they had started month’s earlier, the women’s tennis team got an early jump on its own journey: a quest for respectability after finishing in the bottom half of the conference standings last season.The Oles have yet to hit a shot on the snow-covered Carlson Courts behind Skoglund Athletic Center, but have burned up the indoor circuit, starting 4-1.

The season started with a bang as the squad beat Bethel 7-2 in the opener. The Oles then hit the road and dismantled St. Benedict’s by the same margin. The women returned to their indoor abode, Owatonna Tennis Club, to start a three-meet home stand and picked up right where they left off. Nebraska-Wesleyan managed just two points and became the third consecutive team to drop a 7-2 decision to the Oles. With the triumph, the team won its first non-conference meet of the season. The women returned to conference play and laid an 8-1 beating on the overmatched guests from Concordia.

The last meet of the home stand pitted the Oles against a powerful non-conference opponent in Luther College. Unfortunately, the visitors proved too strong, muscling their way to a 7-2 win.

The meet started with captain Janelle Sagness ‘03 dropping a tough match in number one singles. Luther’s Miriam Blom and Sagness traded 6-4 victories in the first two sets before Blom prevailed in the tiebreaker 10-8. Number two singles featured an equally exciting match as Beth Erie ‘05 won the first set 6-3 before Tasha Allemang battled back to win the second 4-6 and force a tiebreak. Erie would not be denied, posting a 10-8 victory.

The only other Ole victory would come courtesy of the number three doubles tandem of Jennifer Ison ‘03 and Emily Eggert ‘06. Doubles is contested using slightly different scoring regulations than the singles competion.

Individual game scores remain the same, but instead of trying to win a set, which is accomplished when a team or individual wins six games by a margin of two or more, the teams try to become the first side to win eight games while maintaining the same two point margin of victory. The pair needed an extra game to dispatch the pesky Luther duo of Amanda Roiger and Jacie Harldson 9-7.

After having to travel for only one of the first five meets, the team must now hit the road for four straight meets. The Oles’ merit and early season success will be put to the test as they face three important conference matches before returning home in April.

Despite the sparkling record so far, coach Scott Nesbit says his team’s success doesn’t depend on the number in the win column, but the effort put forth on the court.

“We really don't have any expectations except to practice well, work on improving our tennis games, enjoy the competition of the matches, work as a team, and have a lot of fun doing it,” Nesbit said. “If we do those things, we consider ourselves winners regardless of the score.”

That is not to say these girls don’t want to win. “We push each other everyday to get better, but we are very supportive in doing so,” said Carrie Wiersma ‘05.

The camaraderie of the team is evident in matches as those not participating are actively encouraging their teammates. It could be as simple as saying ”nice shot” after a well-played volley or something more elaborate. ”Sometimes we do cheers during the matches,” said Michelle Wiersma ‘05.

Nesbit is quick to point out that the team benefits greatly from the leadership of the squad’s four seniors comprised of Emily Asboe, Jennifer Ison, Yvonne Yang and Sagness.

”They have been fabulous examples of dedication and service to others,” Nesbit said. “They have done an excellent job of helping the players who are new to the team feel welcome.”

An analysis of the women’s success so far this season would not be complete without looking at the coaching staff. Nesbit, now in his 15th season as head coach, is clearly in control but is greatly aided by assistant Kristi Carlson-Stets. Carlson-Stets, an alum and former tennis player, has been outstanding in her supporting role and is forever a part of St. Olaf tennis lore. Her family’s name, Carlson, adorns the Ole courts.

Nesbit displayed this sentiment by saying, “She has been very encouraging, knowledgeable, and fun.”

The Oles seem to have all the ingredients for a successful season in terms of both their own expectations and the number in the win column.

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