Tag Archive | "Tennis"

Wildcat tennis focusing on future

By: Jeremy Sharp & Brittney Holmberg

The Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats are picking up the rackets once again for the spring season. The second half of the schedule is in full swing for both the men’s and women’s teams, but it hasn’t gone as smoothly as either side would hope.

After going 14-0 in the fall schedule, including an MCC Tournament Championship victory, the women’s tennis team has started out spring by going just 3-2. Those defeats have not hampered the team’s optimism toward the upcoming NAIA Tournament in Mobile, Ala.

“We’ve had a real success with the women’s tournament,” said coach Terry Porter.

These Wildcats are currently ranked No. 16 in the country, thanks in part to a reliable doubles team in Lauren Wilson (jr) and Andrea Meyering (jr), who have been playing together at IWU for multiple years.

Wilson said the pair’s extended time together has increased their chemistry and overall performance.

“I know how she’s going to play on the court, and she knows how I’m going to play,” said Wilson.

Coach Porter has high hopes for Wilson, Meyering, as well as the rest of the women’s team. The Wildcats approach the May tournament with confidence.

“We’re pretty highly ranked, and [we’re] respected at that rank,” coach Porter said.

On the men’s side, it’s been a rough spring season for the Wildcats. IWU bowed out in the first round of the MCC Tournament in the fall, going into the break with a 7-5 record. After a promising victory to start the new schedule, the Wildcats have dropped three straight matches, falling to an even 8-8 on the year.

At this point, the team is starting to look toward a bright future beyond the 2011-2012 season.

“I’m really excited to see what happens,” said team captain Luke Montgomery (sr). “My team’s getting some really good freshmen coming in next year.”

After Montgomery, the Wildcats’ lone senior, graduates following this season, the team will be looking for new leadership from some of its current younger players.

Kyle Johnson (fr) figures to step up in more of a leadership role next year, as he was the Wildcats’ lone MCC All-Conference player during the fall season.

“We’ve got a strong team,” said Johnson. “I think that next year’s leaders are going to do well.”

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Wildcat athletics look forward to next chance

Early mornings can only be made better with the breakfast of champions: Frosted Flakes. Well, according to Brooks Ayers (jr), that is. Being part of the Indiana Wesleyan University men’s tennis teams, Ayers knows all about being a champion.

His freshman year, the team won conference. His sophomore year the Wildcats tied for second place and this past season the team tied for third. Next year he’s looking for redemption.

But redemption does not come from laziness.

“Next year we want to win conference and go to NAIA Nationals in Alabama,” Ayers said. Our goal is to win a round of Nationals, which is extremely hard to do.”

With this as his motivation, Ayers is trying to make sure that he his in the best condition he can be in.

“It’s tough because there aren’t any indoor places,” Ayers said. “We practice right now two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday from like 9:30–11:30-ish at night because that’s the only time we can get in.”

This offseason has obviously not been a walk in the park. With tennis practices twice a week and almost daily 45-minute runs, it’s been busy.

The tough workouts help keep Ayers physically strong, but he is also mentally strong, proving to be a leader on the tennis team.

Men’s tennis coach Keith Ruberg describes Ayers as reliable.

“Basically he follows up,” Ruberg said. “Whatever he says he follows up with. And unfortunately a lot of leaders today don’t do that. The most effective leadership is by example.”

With Ayers helping lead the tennis team this spring and next fall, there’s no telling where the squad will end up.

Heading into next year.

Mornings don’t come easily to everyone though. Kylie Dial (jr) of the IWU women’s soccer team prefers to get her workouts in other ways.

“I am like a zombie in the morning,” Dial said. “I just don’t function.”

Fortunately, she finds other ways to get in her workout. She spends two sessions every week with the team working on skills and the rest of her workouts with a group of two other young women. In these groups they are responsible for weightlifting one day and working on overall fitness the next.

Wildcats coach John Bratcher explained what productivity can look like when the team isn’t playing games.

“Growth in the offseason can be measured in many ways,” Bratcher said. “It can be technical, tactical and/or physical. We want to be better players, teammates and have better match flow or chemistry in order to be a more successful team the following season. This also involves the growth of leadership for the upcoming seniors.”

Dial’s work ethic and determination do not go unnoticed by her coach.

“[Dial] demonstrates one of the highest work rates in any women’s player I have coached,” Bratcher said. “At the same time, she is aware of her teammates and can give them a verbal encouraging word, instruction or admonition to pick it up.”

Despite the name, “offseasons” can be stressful. Losing players to graduation, the pressure of classes and papers to write is enough to test the toughest of athletes. But Dial uses her soccer skills to relive her stress and sharpen her play. Her favorite stress reliever? Juggling a ball between her feet.

“Juggling is a big stress reliever for me,” Dial said. “I’ll usually just grab a racquetball court and juggle and listen to music.”

While all  the physical preparation does Dial good there is also a mental aspect that she enjoys. Working out with her team strengthens the Wildcats’ bonds and helped Dial step into a greater leadership role. A roll that may be vital to a team looking to make waves with a new coaching staff.

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The Wilcard: the one with the presents

Imagine a Christmas tree in the center of Indiana Wesleyan University. This tree has presents underneath it, but they are more or less metaphorical gifts given to different parts of IWU’s campus during the 2011 fall semester. There’s a package for food service and presents for the medical program and seminary (I guess you could say they’re on layaway), but the biggest gifts with the fanciest wrapping paper are tagged for the IWU athletic department.

That’s the way it seems this year has gone. And you’ll be hearing no complaints from me about it.

Fall sports at IWU kicked off on August 19 when the Wildcat volleyball team beat Montana St. – Northern. The gifts have only gotten better since.

IWU athletic teams have a combined overall record of 95-31-1 this season. Honors and awards for players, coaches and teams have been coming in almost as quickly as the victories.

The significant thing about many of these wins wasn’t even just the number, but also the level at which the victories took place. The women’s cross country team placed in its fifth consecutive NAIA National Championship appearance, and the men’s top runner improved on his previous best finish in the final event.

On IWU’s tennis courts, the women’s team finished the season a perfect 14-0, while a very young men’s team took home a winning record, led by star-in-the-making Kyle Johnson (fr) who made the MCC All-Conference team.

The soccer teams gave Wildcat fans something worthy of a Christmas thank-you note, as the women’s squad upset Grace College in a late-season overtime game and sent two players to the MCC All-Conference team. The men’s team rode a winning record all the way to the NCCAA Tournament, despite a young roster.

But perhaps the best gift of IWU’s semester in athletics was on the volleyball court. 2011 was the best season in team history, earning the Wildcats 36 wins, including IWU’s first victory in the NAIA National Tournament. Several players were also named to the MCC All-Conference volleyball team and even became NAIA All-Americans.

And now, both Wildcat basketball teams are off to outstanding starts. Could this be the gift that keeps on giving into baseball, softball, track season and more?

It certainly could be, and again, no complaints if it does. But no matter what happens, this has been a great year in IWU sports. Going to games and watching my fellow students give 100 on their respective courts of play has been nothing short of a privilege. All the winning was an added bonus.

Christmas will soon pass and the gifts of this season may start to seem old. We’ll put them on the shelf, still prized possessions, but in hopes of bigger and better things to come. You don’t have to wait a whole year for a chance at those presents. Spring sports season is right around the corner.

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Women’s tennis maintains five-year streak

Sports Photo -- Nils Anderson

Digging deep —Lisa Massey (sr) watches teammate Eva Delk (sr) position a carefully controlled return. The No.2-doubles team of Massey and Delk went on to defeat Grace College’s Alisha Anthony and Jessica Stolle (9-8) on Friday, Oct. 8, 2010.

The last time the Indiana Wesleyan University women’s tennis team lost a regular season match, “Forrest Gump” was winning Academy Awards, the iPod was merely a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye and this year’s freshman class was taking naps in preschool.

Rachael Heiniger (fr) was just 3 years old in 1995, when her future team started a winning streak that would still be going strong when she finally arrived on the scene. That streak is now at 195 matches, and Heiniger is a key player for a Wildcats team poised to continue its unbelievable success.

“Nobody wants to be that team that ruins the streak,” Heiniger said. “So there’s pressure to win, but we don’t have to worry about being the underdogs, and we’re pretty confident that we can keep it going.”

Heiniger stressed how important believing in the team is to their success.

“Confidence is a huge part of the sport and we have a lot of it right now, so we’re doing well,” she said.

Having wrapped up yet another MCC Tournament title on Saturday with a win over Marian University, the Wildcats preserved the regular season streak for the year. Lisa Massey (sr) was as excited as anyone to finish off conference play with a victory, saying she wanted to end her final year with the streak intact “seriously bad.”

“It actually is an extreme amount of pressure, because there’s an expectation to win,” Massey said. “Then it puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders to win your individual match. But we’re confident in ourselves that we’re going to do well; the team we have right now is so incredibly strong.”

Massey also said she thinks the underclassmen have what it takes to keep the streak going into next season and beyond.

“I have full confidence in them,” she said. “No doubt in my mind, they’re going to do great. I can’t wait to see how this team is going to continue to rock on after us seniors are gone.

“Coach Terry Porter, in his 20th year with the Wildcats, has been leading the team since the streak started, and said performing well on the court requires work off of it.

“We make it a family,” he said. “We try to do the things on and off the court that make us bond.”

Recruiting has also been an important part of IWU’s continuous success, and 15 years of unparallelled success has spoken for itself, Porter said.

“We get calls from good players who want to come to a program that’s winning, that plays a big part,” he said.

“Because sometimes I don’t have to go out and look for the player, they will come to us.”

Porter has appreciated the added depth that the young players on his team have provided, as freshmen and sophomores make up 10 of the team’s 16 roster spots.

“It’s been pretty important to count on those points at the bottom of the lineup because every point counts,” he said.

The Wildcats are done for the fall tennis season, but will pick up the rackets again in spring when they play in the NAIA Nationals and Christian College Nationals. Heiniger says she hopes to be competitive in both tournaments, and maybe even win Christian Nationals.

As for the rest of her collegiate career, Heiniger has high hopes for the team.

“Just to keep the winning streak going, to make it to nationals every year, and improve each year,” she said.

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