‘Inches away’ from success


In terms of the win-loss column, the Jackrabbit women’s tennis team appears as struggling.

After dropping their first three conference matches last weekend to Oakland, UMKC and Southern Utah, a fan unfamiliar with the program might be asking, “What’s going on?”

“I wasn’t disappointed at all because they (Oakland, UMKC, SUU) are three of the best teams in the conference,” head coach Don Hanson said. “The girls played extremely hard and extremely well. There was nothing to be disappointed about except the (final) score.”

Much like the men’s team, the women’s side is battling with youth and a batch of international student athletes on its roster. SDSU’s No. 1 singles spot belongs to freshman and New Zealand native Jenny Blackburne, who came to the team this winter. Junior Natalia Medina’s is from Colombia, coming to SDSU because of her interest in the agriculture program.

The women’s program is finally starting to match up with other schools at the D-I level in terms of scholarship numbers and the talent on the court. One big factor seems to be holding the entire tennis program back: lack of indoor facilities.

Hillcrest Courts, located just south of campus, is the home for the team, weather permitting. Due to the long winter and absence of spring, the Jacks have been practicing at the 5th Street Gym.

“We practice roughly four hours a week. Most of the teams we face put in 20 hours a week,” Hanson said.

Limited practice puts any team in a nice-sized hole. Until the weather warms up, SDSU has to make due with what they have.

In that case, they hope the weather changes fast.

The women’s team will be hosting the first-ever Summit League tennis matches held in Brookings. Oral Roberts, Centenary, Western Illinois, IPFW and IUPUI will all be visiting April 14-16. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the matches will be moved to an indoor facility in Sioux Falls.

“We’re hoping for good weather. It should be a well run event and I think we’ll do pretty good,” Hanson said.

Hanson was quick to point out that the lack of facilities isn’t an excuse, and despite the losses, his team is almost to the point of piling up wins. Much like the men’s side, the future is bright for the women’s team to establish themselves in the Summit League.

“We’ve been totally competitive every time we’ve played, even against the top teams in the Summit League,” Hanson said. “We’re not miles away, we’re inches away. We are a very strong team. We’re at the stage (with the program) now that there shouldn’t be a ‘next year’, it should be ‘we’re there now.’”