Marquette women’s tennis: Retooled roster ready to go

Marquette women’s tennis closed the 2010-11 season with a fourth-place finish in the Big East Championship Tournament after losing 4-3 to third-seeded DePaul.

The team ended up with a winning record overall (19-11), but failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships. This year’s squad looks much different and will be looking for a different result.

After losing Rachael Hush and Christina Ruiz to graduation, and after three players were dismissed from the team for violating team rules, the Golden Eagles welcome four new faces: junior Ashley Grafton, freshmen Ali Dawson and Ana Pimienta, and graduate student Kristina Radan.

Seniors Gillian Hush and Olga Fischer and sophomore Rocio Diaz are the only remaining players from last year’s squad but emerged last year as potential team leaders. Hush was second on the team in singles wins with 22 and teamed with Chelsea Utting for a 21-10 doubles record.

Fischer recorded a 21-18 record last season and experienced the most success in doubles when paired with Diaz, with the duo finishing 11-4.

Though only playing in 16 singles matches during the spring semester, Diaz impressed with a 12-4 record and finished the season on a seven-match win streak.

Grafton comes to Marquette as a transfer from the U.S. Naval Academy but played most of her tennis at Marian Military Institute, where she qualified for national tournaments in both the spring and fall seasons. The Oklahoma native will be unable to play for the Golden Eagles this season due to her transfer status.

Radan graduated from the University of Oklahoma where she spent 2008-2010 on the tennis team. By not competing at Oklahoma for the full four years, Radan was allowed by the NCAA to compete with the Golden Eagles this season.

Dawson, from Irvine, Calif., and Pimienta out of La Herradura, Mexico, have already impressed coach Jody Bronson in practice.

“We’re very impressed with Ali (Dawson). She was nationally ranked in high school and has a lot of tournament experience,” Bronson said. “Ana (Pimienta) played at a very high level in Mexico and is a very aggressive player who really attacks the ball.”

“I’m hoping to go out there and do my best on the court but also grow into the team aspect,” Dawson said. “Tennis has usually been a more individual sport for me, but being on this team is a totally different atmosphere. I’m really looking forward to seeing where I stand on the team.”

Bronson said that doubles play is her chief concern going into the season with a relatively new squad. She is looking to determine who plays well with who based on singles results.

The Milwaukee Tennis Classic this weekend, Bronson said, will be a good opportunity to engage in the necessary mixing and matching.

“The good thing about this tournament is we can put anybody anywhere,” Bronson said. “We can throw a number four player into a match if we want to see how she will do against a really good player, and we can also change our doubles teams every day, so we can look at different combinations.”

Fischer is looking forward to the tournament as a chance for the new faces to become more familiar with the members of last year’s roster, as well as a chance to play in from of a friendly crowd.

“Right now we are focused on getting to know one another with all the new additions,” Fischer said. “We’re really excited (for the Milwaukee Classic) because it’s our home tournament, and people can come and support us, especially our friends and family.”