A year to return to the top


Every sports team, in one way or another, has a need to rebuild, to show they have what it takes to win. In the words of BYU women’s tennis coach Lauren Jones-Spencer, “It will come.”

In times past, the BYU women’s tennis team had a legacy of winning, finishing No. 1 in the conference 21 times in the last 38 years. However, in recent years the Cougars have experienced a slump in their record and their national standing.

The 2006-07 season marked the last time the Cougars won the conference championship with a record of 22-7 and a national ranking of 26. In the 2007-08 season BYU made a sudden drop to 5th place, finishing 5-3 in conference play. The following two years the Cougars maintained their 5-3 record only to drop again to 4-4. The lack of winning also caused their ranking on the national level to fall to 76th.

Jones-Spencer, who was recently hired in July, said a lot of things contributed to the fall in the standings, from coaching changes to graduation to injury.

“We had a lot of injuries the first year we didn’t win the conference in 2008,” Spencer said. “Once you fall down, you have a hardship or injury, it’s hard to rebuild confidence and get back to that high level.”

Jones-Spencer took over as head coach this summer after a year of being the interim head coach, two years as an assistant and four years as a player.

“Last year, my focus was on rebuilding the team,” Spencer said. “It was about stabilizing the program so we could start rebuilding. I have a five-year plan, I have made set goals for the team and we are on track.”

The 2006-07 season was Spencer’s senior year, when she finished undefeated in conference play as well as receiving All-Conference honors all four years as a Cougar.

Like many of the other former Cougars who have taken over as a head coach, Spencer has been given no small responsibility.

“Lauren … played like a champion for us as a student- athlete,” said athlectic director Tom Holmoe in a news release. “Her task is to help the Cougars gain respect not only in the West Coast Conference, but on the national stage as well.”

In addition to the team’s coach, the players are excited to help form a new legacy for the tennis program and once again return to top. To add to the changes of having a new coach, the team begins its first season with the West Coast Conference.

“The West Coast Conference is going to be more competitive,” Spencer said. “Most of the teams are ranked. It will be a good challenge for us coming in to make our mark and show where we stand.”

For several of the Cougars, that road begins this weekend in the BYU Invitational. Just as the men’s tennis program, the women’s program has a history of dominating the first tournament of the year on home soil. Last year, members of the BYU team claimed the championship in both singles and doubles.

Megan Price, a senior from Kiama, Australia, won the doubles title last year and is hoping to do the same this year with a new partner, Megan Sheehan-Dizon, a freshman from Murrieta, Calif.

“I have been practicing with my doubles partner, who is the other Megan,” Price said. “So, it will be Megan and Megan.”

Price said she feels the team has a great chance to make a name for themselves joining the West Coast Conference with “a clean slate.” But she feels that the preparation begins now with this tournament.

“This tournament and the others are the best thing possible,” Price said. “We will be playing some of the best schools on the west side of the nation. All it does is just help you. You can practice all you want, but if you don’t practice matches, then it’s not going to work.”

The BYU Invitational consists of players from BYU, Utah State and Weber State. The tournament begins Thursday at 10 a.m. and runs through Saturday.

“I’m excited to see my players compete in the first competition of the year,” Spencer said. “I’m excited to see where they’re at and to see how they do in college competition. This tournament will be good for them.”

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