By Ben Hartsock
The BYU women”s tennis team commences their highly anticipated season today, Jan. 16, at 5 p.m. against in-state rival Utah State Aggies at the BYU Indoor Tennis Facilities. The Cougars look to prevail over a hungry USU team.
The Cougars began the preseason with a commanding presence, winning a regional qualifying tournament. By winning this preseason tournament, they qualified to play in the ITA National Indoor Championship in February.
The team won the preseason tournament by beating the University of Denver 6-1 and the University of Oklahoma 4-2 in the final rounds.
The Cougars hope to continue the season with the same determination and skill that they have displayed in the preseason.
BYU swept the Aggies in the meeting last year 7-0 and are optimistic that their hard work will pay off with another convincing win.
The Cougars also saw glimpses of the USU women”s team during the BYU Invitational in September of last year.
During the BYU Invitational, Barbora Zahnova crushed Lindsey Bennion of USU 6-0 and 6-2. Sofia Holden passed by the Aggie”s Carolyn Stephens 6-4 and 6-3, and Rebecca Pike defeated USU”s Courtney Anderson 7-5 and 6-0 in singles play on the first day of the invitational.
In doubles action against USU at the invitational, BYU”s Zahnova and Holden beat USU”s Bennion and Stephens 8-1, and the Cougar”s Hadley Macfarlane and Nicole Schneider passed the Aggie”s Anderson and Jill Smith by the same score.
“We had a great preseason and the girls are just itching to play,” said head coach Craig Manning. “The girls have worked really hard in the offseason to condition themselves to be ready for the upcoming season.”
The team met with a strength and conditioning coach during the offseason to help keep everyone strong and healthy throughout the season.
The Cougars added experience to their six returning players with the addition of Virginia Commonwealth transfer Barbora Zahnova, who is ranked nationally No. 43 in singles. Zahnova also has found a powerful doubles companion, Holden.
The team is also excited for the return of senior Lu Oswald, who has been strengthening her shoulder since her surgery last season to repair a torn rotator cuff.
The other key returning players for the Cougars are Rebecca Pike, Olga Boulytcheva, Hadley Macfarlane, Nicole Schneider and Hanni Wittenbecker. Included in the roster are also two freshmen, Lauren Jones and Holden.
With an exiting preseason and a quality roster, the Cougars have earned national recognition, rising in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll from No. 48 to No. 45.
“We are very excited to look what we can do this year,” Manning said of the upcoming season.