Sophomore Hamsa Javagal and senior Junmoke James congratulate their opponents after a doubles match. James is one of four Lehigh women's tennis players competing at the ITA Regional Championships this weekend. (Alli Kimmel/B&W Staff)

Women’s tennis optimistic, even amid roster issues


Lehigh women’s tennis defeated Marist 4-3 in their season opener on Feb. 5.

Coach Sarah Hendrix is faced with a challenging shortage of players.

Currently, there are seven players on the roster, which is the minimum to qualify for matches. This would leave the team forced to default a match if a single girl was injured, Hendrix said. 

To get ahead of this potential issue, the team added senior Brenda Cuadra from the women’s club tennis team. Cuadra started in the Marist match, losing 6-3, 6-0 in her singles match.

“I think that adds an additional level of seniority to the team,” Hendrix said. “She doesn’t have any experience playing on a Division I tennis team, but from a number of standpoints her presence really eases the minds of a lot of my players.”

Lehigh’s roster is the smallest in the Patriot League and they have the third highest percentage of underclassmen in the conference.

The Mountain Hawks played in four preparation matches during the fall, of which scores were not reported.

Despite a shortage of upperclassmen players — four out of seven athletes are underclassmen — the team held each other accountable during the preseason.

The underclassmen have assumed leadership roles while setting the standards for the entire team, freshman Hamsa Javagal said.

“You could try to name some disadvantages to having a lot of underclassmen, but I think we can actually turn them into advantages,” Javagal said. “It’s encouraged a lot of girls to step up and take on this role of leadership on the team.”

The team’s approach to competition is informed by what Hendrix calls the “five pillars.” 

These are competitiveness, team first mentality, integrity, toughness and self-awareness. 

Freshman Allyce Gaborik said that one word to describe the team’s outlook on the season is optimism.

“Because so many of us are underclassmen, we have a lot of room to grow because we’re going to be playing together for so many more years.”

Weekly team dinners, daily practices, workouts and a dedicated coaching staff are all working to build the team’s chemistry and help prepare for the season, Gaborik said.

The Mountain Hawks were 5-4 last year, tallying a 3-2 conference record. 

This year, the team will play a string of out-of-league matches, including a three match road trip to South Carolina, before beginning Patriot League play on March 19.

“I think seeing the girls get to know who they are and finding themselves through the sport of tennis by being on a team is amazing to watch,” Hendrix said. “I try to help them realize that being who they are is exactly who we need them to be.”

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