The 2009 fall season for the SDSU men’s and women’s teams will be quite a contrast, as half of the 10 women on the roster are juniors and seniors, while half of the 10 players on the men’s roster are freshmen.
“We are very excited about the men’s team because we are really starting our first major push at the Division-I level,” said head coach Don Hanson. “We have a very young squad with mainly freshmen and sophomores, and that is where we are going to start building the team.”
Highlighting the incoming freshmen class is Australian Jamie Dash.
The No. 1 singles player at Newstead College – Tasmanians consider high school to be grades 7 to 10 and college to be grades 11 to 12 – and state tournament champion in 2006, Dash earned a place on the state tennis team from 2006-08 and a place on the national team in 2008.
“Jamie Dash has stepped up and taken on a leadership role,” said Hanson. “He is a very hard worker, while also setting a good example in training and practice.”
Dash teamed up with fellow Australian and Jackrabbit sophomore Dominic Rossetto to win the Tasmanian State doubles title in 2008.
The top returner for the Jacks and the player that will start the season as the No. 1 singles player is sophomore Justin Pyle. Even though Pyle is only a sophomore, he has taken on a leadership role, Hanson said.
“Justin played very well for us last year and just improved over the summer and is a hard worker. Both Jamie and Justin are very willing workers, and I couldn’t be happier with this group.”
The first men’s action will be Sept. 18 to 20 at the Drake Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa. Drake was ranked in the top 75 in last February’s poll, along with the University of Minnesota who ended the team ranking last season at No. 30.
Hanson said that Drake is one of the more difficult tournaments that they attend. He said he wants to test his team early to see where they stand.
The following week is a tournament in Omaha where Hanson expects his team to do well. On Oct. 16 and 17, SDSU heads to the Arkansas Invitational which will feature teams from No. 9 Texas, No. 25 Oklahoma State, No. 29 Tulsa and No. 55 Arkansas. (All rankings are from the final poll of the 2009 season.)
“That’s a real giant step for us, and we needed to make sure that we are prepared to see where we are as a team,” said Hanson.
The fall season concludes at the Black Hills Classic with a two-day event versus Montana State Billings. The Jacks won both meetings against Billings in the Black Hills last year.
“We think we have the basis of the best men’s team to ever play at SDSU,” said Hanson. “… We hope to finish this year in the top four of the Summit League, which is a big ask. Next year we plan to win it. It’s big talk, but I think we can do that with the men.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the SDSU women have experience on their side, with only one incoming freshman and every player returning from last year’s team that went 9-13, an increase of six wins from the previous year.
“Nearly all of the women are experienced and all have had a year in the Summit League,” Hanson said. “They will all improve in conference because of that experience.”
The women will be led by sophomores Bryna Nasenbeny and Megan McDougall.
Nasenbeny was a three-star recruit coming out of Aurora, Ill., last year as a freshman while she posted a perfect 5-0 record to open the dual season as the No. 1 singles. She finished the year with an 11-9 record.
McDougall had a team-best 14-10 record in singles competition last season, including winning a tournament this summer in Wyoming.
“Megan is looking sensational early on, and the rest of them look like they are ready to go,” said Hanson.
The two Jackrabbit seniors this season are Caitlin Brannen from Denison, Iowa, and Carrie Jansen from Foley, Minn.
“The seniors have put in four good years for us, so it is exciting to see them finish out their careers and see the improvement.”
Junior Emma Wylie had an ACL injury that cut her season short last year and will sideline her for the fall portion of the tennis season.
Hanson sees potential on the women’s side, but knows that there is room for improvement.
“Everyone on the team is competitive, but we are still not quite to the standard that we need to be to be a real force in the Summit League,” he said. “… I know that we have improved, and we are looking better, plus we have experience, which sometimes is difference. We know that we will compete like we did last year since we have the entire team back from last year.”
The SDSU women are also the only team in the nation to have every player named to the All-Academic team in the Summit League.
The season starts on Sept. 25 with a two-day event at the Pierre Classic, competing against North Dakota, Augustana, Northern State and Mankato State.