Tennis hopes to stay healthy to fully compete in Pac-12

Junior Jacqueline Cako serves the ball in practice last week prior to the Wolverine Invitational. (Photo by Kyle Newman)

With just one week of practice complete, the ASU tennis team looks to get back into the swing of things for the new season.

The team has practiced fully for just one week so far, but coach Sheila McInerney isn’t worried for what’s in store this year.

“We are going to take things one day at a time, (we) don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, she said.

McInerney, entering her 28th season as the Sun Devils head coach, said she is prepared for the challenges the team will face.

She said it is still the “preseason” for the Sun Devils, and they have until January to figure out who will be playing where.

One player to look out for is junior Jacqueline Cako, who enters the season at No. 13 in the singles rankings for the country.

She finished the 2011-12 campaign with a loss in the first round of the singles playoffs, but had a terrific season nonetheless.

Joining Cako on the team this year are five returning players and two freshmen.

Four players from last year’s roster earned Pac-12 All-Academic honors, including Cako and senior Hannah James, who was a conference honorable mention.

McInerney said that there is not just one player who will lead this team.

“All (seven) of them have an important role,” McInerney said.

A problem the team dealt with last season was staying healthy. As the year came closer to the postseason, the Sun Devils had only four players who were healthy enough to play against conference rival Utah.

In order to have a successful season, the players need to stay healthy.

“(The team) needs to sleep and eat well, stretch etc., do as much as they can to be in the best shape,” said McInerney.

The Sun Devils finished off the season at 11-9, which was good enough to place seventh in the Pac-12. Ten of their wins came at home.

“Home field advantage is huge here. Teams can’t handle the heat,” the coach said.

Winning at home won’t be enough, though. Defeating teams on the road is key for the Sun Devils to have a successful year, since they went 1-7 last season.

ASU will need lots of practice, health and a little bit of luck to compete against some of the best schools in the nation — UCLA and USC.

“I’m a firm believer in the harder you work, the luckier you get,” said McInerney.

 

Reach the reporter at drosenbl@asu.edu