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SEASON PREVIEW: Women’s tennis enters 2017 with high hopes, difficult schedule

Senior+Paula+Sanchez+hopes+to+help+women%27s+tennis+build+on+a+15-8+2016+campaign.
Senior Paula Sanchez hopes to help women's tennis build on a 15-8 2016 campaign.

Senior Paula Sanchez hopes to help women's tennis build on a 15-8 2016 campaign.

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo by Maggie Bean

Senior Paula Sanchez hopes to help women's tennis build on a 15-8 2016 campaign.

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Women’s tennis would seem to be slated for a step backward after a 15-8 record last season, the program’s best since 2011. That’s what’s supposed to happen when two of the best players from last year leave, after all.

Head coach Jody Bronson, now in her 33rd year at Marquette, isn’t concerned.

“I think we are going to be stronger than we were last year,” Bronson said. “I think we’re going to have a little bit more depth and maybe a little more power at the top.”

The team lost two valuable players from last year: Silvia Ambrosio and Diana Tokar. Ambrosio, Marquette’s top singles and doubles player and 2016 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year, transferred from the team. She went 16-6 in singles and 11-2 in doubles with senior Paula Tormos Sanchez last season. Tokar, who graduated, played No. 2, 3 and 4 singles and mostly No. 2 doubles.

Freshmen Andrea Amortegui and Natalija Popovic will be called upon to replace them. Amortegui is a doubles state champion from Ranches, Florida, and was ranked No. 14 in the state. Popovic is ranked 36th internationally by Tennis Europe and possesses two singles and one doubles title.  Joining both of the underclassmen is Milica Novakovic, a sophomore transfer from Kentucky.

Sanchez believes the new players could make an instant impact with their attitude and work ethic. “They look really solid on the court,” Sanchez said.

While Sanchez is the only senior on the eight-woman team, she’s far from the only returning contributor. Sophomore Fleur Eggink from Pieze, Netherlands will return and probably move up in the rotation. She had a combined record of 18-3 at No. 3 and No. 4 singles, and a 9-2 record with Tokar at No. 2 doubles.

The team’s schedule will most likely be challenging; not just because of conference matches against DePaul, Xavier and St. John’s, but also due to out-of-conference matches against ranked competition. Teams like Florida International, which ended last season ranked No. 42 in the International Tennis Association’s top 50, will push a majority-underclass Marquette team to the limit.

“We have a lot of matches that are really going to test how tough we are, how good we are,” Bronson said. “So I think that will be a way to check at the door how we’re doing.”

Sanchez wants to do her part to lead the team against these challenges; not just on match day, but on the days in between too.

“I just want to do as much as I can this year to help the others, the younger (players) on the team. I feel like I don’t only want to do good for myself, but for everyone else and I know that we are really excited about this season,” Sanchez said.

The Milwaukee Tennis Classic runs from Tuesday, Sept. 20 to Sunday, Sept. 24. It will be one of the first early trials for this young team. Dual matches, the kind that would feature Marquette’s lineup against another school’s lineup, do not begin until January.

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