Women’s tennis opened match play with loss to Villanova

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Junior Sibel Can, right, and sophomore Paula Gonzalez, celebrate after winning their doubles match against Villanova on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Lewis Indoor Tennis Center. The women’s tennis team dropped its season opener to Villanova 5-2. (May Naish/B&W Staff)

The Lehigh women’s tennis team got a taste of the spring season grind this weekend as it opened up match play against Villanova at the Lewis Indoor Tennis Center. The Mountain Hawks lost to the Wildcats 5-2.

Head coach Sarah Hendrix said while there has been limited opportunity to practice as a team since coming back to school, there was an expectation that her players would follow their training routines while they were home.

“We gave a plan for what to do and they all came back in shape,” Hendrix said. “They trained over winter break —  that was their priority and they’re all ready to go now for the spring season,”

A major challenge that presents itself in between the fall and spring seasons is a shift in mindset from an individual to a team approach. The fall season consists of three or four tournaments in which players are mostly relying on themselves for success. In the spring season, there are matches every weekend and success must be achieved using every member of the roster.

“We’re just excited to get ready to compete, not necessarily more seriously (than the fall), but in a more team environment,” junior Sibel Can said. “We’re all playing at the same time and pumping each other up. I think that’s what everyone is most excited for.”

Can said the team approached its weekend lineup with a positive mentality, even though they anticipated the matches would be tough.

“I think we just have to play smart, and we have to have a lot of high energy,” Can said. “It’s just going to be really important coming into this weekend. We’re not necessarily expecting to win, but having the mindset that we can beat them and they can beat us.”

Hendrix said she feels confident about the chemistry within the team and ability of any player to step on the court and make an impact.

“I have a roster of nine that is so deep that anyone could be playing in the lineup for a match,” Hendrix said. “So, we’ll just take it week by week and reevaluate everyone’s progress and see how everyone’s doing.”

Despite the team’s versatility, Can and sophomore Paula Gonzalez’s experience playing together will make them a doubles pairing to look out for this season. The two have played with each other for years, as they grew up together in Weston, Florida.

Can said that she and Gonzalez have been training together since they were 7 or 8 years old and have the ability to feed off of each other’s play.

“We both like to be high energy, really positive — if one day I’m a little lower than her energy-wise, she’ll lift me up and I’ll lift her up,” Can said. “We’re a really good team, she knows what I’m thinking, we’re on the same page about things. It makes our lives a little easier, and it resonates on the court.”

While Villanova represented a test start to its spring campaign, the women’s team is confident that they can pull through and hit the ground running on its quest for a Patriot League title.

“There is no doubt that there is an excitement and energy in the air as the season opens against Villanova,” Can said. 

The Mountain Hawks will host the Stony Brook University Seawolves at the Lewis Indoor Tennis Center on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m.

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