PREVIEW: More-Experienced Bruins Hoping to Make Impact in NWC Tennis This Spring
NEWBERG, Ore. - With five of their top six players returning, plus three talented newcomers who are expected to contribute right away, veteran coach Rick Cruz believes that his George Fox University Bruins are ready to make some waves in the Northwest Conference as the 2012 women’s tennis season gets under way.
“I’m very excited about the upcoming season,” admits Cruz, a former Bruin men’s tennis player who is entering his 11th year at the helm of the women’s program. “We will still be fairly young with no seniors, but competitive because of the experience we got last year, and our newcomers can all play. Whether that will translate into more wins this year is hard to predict, because the whole league is better overall, but the future is definitely bright for George Fox tennis.”
The Bruins are coming off a 2011 campaign in which they went 4-14 overall and finished eighth in the nine-team NWC with a 1-11 conference mark. The only player gone from that squad is Liliya Abildayeva, who elected not to play her senior year after going 8-8 at No. 5 singles and 4-9 at No. 3 doubles.
Leading the list of returnees is two-time All-NWC Second Team selection Molly Beaumont (Jr., Bellingham, Wash. / Bellingham HS), who went 4-13 at No. 1 singles and 4-13 at No. 1 doubles. In order behind her will be Alyssa Emoto (So., Gresham, Ore. / Gresham HS) and Shaina Inn (So., Honolulu, Hawai’i / Hawai’i Baptist Academy). Emoto was 4-14 at No. 2 singles and 9-9 at No. 2 doubles, while Inn posted a 6-12 record at No. 3 singles and 8-10 at No. 2 doubles.
“Our top three players gained valuable experience last year that has really developed their confidence, and I believe we can compete with just about anyone in our conference with them,” declares Cruz. “Those three will put us in a position to win almost every time out.
“Molly has developed into a solid team leader, both on and off the court, and has earned the privilege of being our team captain this year. Alyssa can compete with any No. 2 in our league and will make a big impact this year. Shaina’s game is steady and consistent, she knows how to play the game, and she proved to herself last year that she can compete at the college level.”
Cara Griffith (Jr., Spokane, Wash. / University HS) is back at No. 4 after going 5-14 at No. 4 singles and 5-13 at No. 1 doubles. Says Cruz, “Cara has picked her game up a notch and is much improved. She came back in the best physical condition of her life and has really focused mentally on her game.”
The Bruins’ final returnee is Bethany Nguyen (So., Tacoma, Wash. / Steilacoom HS), an academic senior who plans to return for at least one more year. She went 5-9 at No. 6 singles and 4-11 at No. 3 doubles in her first collegiate season. Says Cruz, “Bethany was limited in fall workouts by some schoolwork, but she has dedicated herself to the spring season and should give us some solid play at the back of the lineup.”
Chantelle Hadeed (Fr., West Linn, Ore. / Westside Christian HS) is the Bruins’ top rookie and is expected to nail down the No. 5 slot while pushing to move even higher. Notes Cruz, “Chantelle has had to overcome some knee problems, but when she is healthy, she is a fine player who works hard and constantly to improve.”
Rounding out the roster and fighting for playing time in the lower half of the lineup will be Alissandra Wittrig (Fr., Albany, Ore. / South Albany HS) and Marissa Chau (Fr., Honolulu, Hawai’i / Hawai’i Baptist Academy).
“Ali is an up-and-coming player who gained valuable experience in the Oregon state tournament as a senior last year,” observes Cruz. “Marissa is an academic junior who decided to come out this year and has been a pleasant surprise.”
In doubles, Cruz plans to start out mixing the lineups up a bit from last year, pairing Beaumont with Emoto at No. 1, Inn and Griffith at No. 2, and “Chantelle definitely and whoever else is playing the best at No. 3.”
Assisting Cruz for an 11th consecutive season is his twin brother, Rob Cruz. Nick Jenness, a former Bruin men’s player, is back for a second season as a volunteer assistant, while former Bruin women’s player Stephanie (Selid) Ostrom will also help out in her first season as a volunteer.
The Northwest Conference schedule this year calls for a ‘round-robin-and-a-half’, meaning each team will play every other opponent once and four of the other eight teams a second time for a total of 12 league matches. The top four will compete in the NWC Tournament at the site of the No. 1 seed for the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
“Our league is deep this year; there are no throw-away matches,” Cruz comments. “I think we have the ability to challenge for one of those spots, but we will have to play well every time out and avoid injuries. If we can do that, we will have laid a solid foundation for this program.”
The Bruins get the new season going Saturday, Feb. 11, with a 2:00 p.m. non-conference match at home against the College of Idaho. They also have a non-league match with the University of La Verne this spring, and five matches during their Spring Break Trip to Orlando, Fla., where they will play Hamline University, Elmhurst University, Calvin College, Whittier College, and Lindenwood University.