WINONA LAKE, Ind. – The Grace College women’s tennis team enters the 2016 season as one of the most experienced squads on campus.
Half (five) of the roster is comprised of seniors who have grown the program alongside fourth-year head coach Scott Moore, and the seniors are prepared to end their careers on a high note this fall.
“I’m very excited about our team this season. It has been an amazing journey watching our seniors for four years, and it has been a blessing watching them grow in all aspects of their lives,” Moore said. “We are no doubt senior-led, and I know they all have extremely high expectations on and off the court. I am most pleased with the leadership that has been shown through a couple of girls, and I cannot wait to see that carry over to the underclassmen.”
Senior Natalia Kurkova is back for her senior season as Grace’s No. 1 singles’ player after posting a 7-4 mark at the top position. She has worked hard in the offseason and is poised “for her best season this year,” according to Moore.
Fellow seniors Gabrielle Lawrence, Jayna Huber, Mariah Lewis and Rachel Smith all boast match experience, and junior Caroline Cassidy gives the Lady Lancers six upperclassmen. Lawrence is currently ninth all-time in the program for career singles’ wins.
A pair of sophomores earned consistent playing time last year—Jenna Jackson and Molly Fitzpatrick. Jackson led the team in wins last year, going 9-2 in doubles and 7-4 in singles. Moore gushed over Jackson’s toughness and competitive spirit and expects big things from the sophomore duo.
Another change for the program is an increase in responsibility for assistant coach Marcus Moore, Scott’s twin brother.
“A lot of our potential being reached will depend on how quickly our two freshmen come along,” Moore concluded. “We have great leadership. Now we just need our young players to follow.”
Another hallmark of the team is academics. The Lady Lancers ranked sixth among all NAIA tennis programs last year with a team GPA of 3.68. Moore expects that academic strength to continue being a defining characteristic of the program.
The Lady Lancers will officially kick off the season on Aug. 27 with the Marian Doubles’ Tournament. Grace’s first home match is Sept. 3 against Huntington.