The No. 26 ASU tennis team returns to the Whiteman Tennis Center on Saturday against NAU for its first match since the Thunderbird Invitational in November.
All athletes are healthy and ready to go following the break while coach Sheila McInerney feels confident as her girls continue scrimmage and match play going into the weekend.
“We focused on a lot of practice work our first week back,” Mclnerney said. “Now we’re working on match to see how we look on the court.”
The Sun Devils have been off for about a month and haven’t played a match since November, but they kept up practice over the break to stay prepared, including a weight workout schedule from Mclnerney.
“Most tennis players are used to practicing on their own, so I know they did what they had to when they were gone,” Mclnerney said.
The match play helps determine who will be playing in doubles over the weekend. Two teams are already comprised of senior Joanna Smith with sophomore Ebony Panoho and freshman Kassidy Jump with sophomore Desirae Krawczyk, but the third team is undecided.
“Some teams work better than others,” Mclnerney said. “These teams aren’t set for the year, but it’s another chance to see who works well together.”
Sophomore Stephanie Vlad is also coming off of “a great fall season,” according to McInerney and will “probably” be the Sun Devils No. 1 seed. Vlad took third in the Thunderbird Invitational in mid-November while taking down the No. 44, 35, and 23 ranked players in the nation after overcoming an ACL injury last season. She entered the tournament unranked, but goes into the Spring season ranked 50th in singles.
The matches Saturday will take place at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in a double header between ASU and the Lumberjacks with each match consisting of six singles matches and three doubles matches.
The extra play time benefits both teams as they are “trying to get rhythm” and focus on playing in competition again.
“Everyone’s nervous after a few weeks off,” Mclnerney said. “It’s good to play matches like this and focus on just getting our feet wet.”
Home-court advantage should pay off for ASU as the Lumberjacks must re-evaluate how the ball plays in lower altitude after playing on courts where the ball flies further.
ASU is traditionally stronger than NAU, but the team is not thinking about wins as they are focusing on “concerns about (them)selves.”
The spring semester brings more difficult matches for the tennis team as challenging tournaments approach. Following the meet this weekend, the team travels to Chicago for a tournament featuring No. 21 Notre Dame.
Following strong performances in the fall, the team is prepared and excited to be back on the court. A full roster of healthy players and momentum following a successful tournament going into the break bodes well for ASU as they finish preparations for their first match of the 2014 season.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @NolanKwit