ASU tennis prepares during 13-day hiatus for sea-level match at Pepperdine

Coming off a three-match weekend, the ASU women’s tennis team has a 13-day break until the Feb. 15 match against Pepperdine University.

Coach Sheila McInerney said she is going to push the athletes to be more physical in practice over the coming week.

“We’re really working the kids pretty hard … (with) a lot of drills,” McInerney said.

 
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The team was not as physical as San Jose St. on Sunday and will have to focus on this against No. 48 Pepperdine on its Feb. 15 match.

McInerney also said the team needs to become accustomed to California conditions.

“(Pepperdine is) basically at sea level; we’re at a thousand feet,” she said.

She said this will make the balls move slower off the racket, resulting in longer points.

“Some of the drills we’re doing is really focusing on (slower moving balls),” she said.

One was to simulate this environment is through the use of compressed balls. She said they were softer, had less air and travel through the air less quickly.

Many drills they do involve a rope strung across the court about six inches above the net.

This net forces the players to hit the ball higher and instinctively do so during the matches.

“We’ve got a pretty big hitting team,” McInerney said. “The higher you hit it, the deeper the ball goes.”

She emphasized that teaching the players this way helps them by not changing their technique and helps them hit for depth.

Many of the drills involve four players on the same court. McInerney said this increases the intensity of the drill, but the players don’t have to expend energy moving too much around the court.

She said freshmen Gussie O’Sullivan and Alex Osborne were both focusing on shortening their backswings.

“If you have too big of a backswing, it takes you a little bit longer to make contact,” McInerney said.

Shortening the backswing allows the player to catch the ball earlier and get it onto the opponents side quicker.

In another drill, two players stood on each side of the net inside the service boxes. They would volley the ball to each other with game-time intensity, but try to pick the ball before it hit the ground.

Different paces and positions help the players in games, and McInerney said sophomore Desirae Krawczyk has been working on this.

“She has a tendency to hit the ball at the same pace,” McInerney said.

Krawczyk has been practicing hitting the ball higher over the net and using more slices. She, however, tweaked her groin on the morning of Feb. 5.

“She’ll probably be out of practice for at least a few days,” McInerney said.

Sophomore Ebony Panoho, who injured her wrist during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, is recovering from her injury.

“She’s going to probably hit tomorrow. We’re just being a little cautious with her,” McInerney said.

Wrist injuries are not uncommon for tennis players, so McInerney is trying to not overwork her.

The outbreak of injuries came in the middle of a 13-day break between matches.

“We’re trying to utilize (these) days for some good practice,” McInerney said.

Reach the reporter at logan.newman@asu.edu, or follow him on Twitter @Logan_Newsman