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February 5, 2013

2013 Preview: U of R Women's Tennis Elevates Expectations with Recharged Passion

Equipped with a national ranking of No. 24, the University of Redlands women's tennis embarks upon the 2013 season with high expectations of exceeding that ranking while making a run at the top of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).  The Bulldogs return a pair of All-Conference selections in junior Jessica Ly (Torrance, CA) and sophomore Ceara Sumida (Hilo, HI), who sit poised to lead the team back to the NCAA Championship tournament.  With a roster chockfull of talent, the Maroon and Gray looks forward to putting its redefined dedication in motion as it attacks a high-caliber schedule for an exciting season.

Head Coach Geoff Roche, who enters his 14th overall year with the Bulldogs and his eighth with the women, stated, "We have a clearer understanding of the level of commitment that is necessary for us to achieve our goals and do what we want to do."

Among the steps to success, Redlands faces a demanding slate of opponents, including seven teams include on the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division III Preseason Poll.  In addition to the Bulldogs, three SCIAC teams own national rankings, showing the depth and quality of the conference.

"Our team realizes the challenges that come with our schedule, and our commitment to being our best will help us succeed over the course of the season," explained Roche. 

In addition to the schedule, the Maroon and Gray holds value in its overall improved level of fitness, increased hunger and motivation for success, and an influx of talent to complement the already skilled returnees. 

"The team is deeper than before," Roche added.  "We expect to have enhanced contributions from new players at various positions."

Among the depth, senior Claudia Llanes (Miami Beach, FL), the only four-year member, looks forward to her final season with a relentless desire to improve and be competitive while contributing to the betterment of the team.

After battling through injury in 2012, Ly takes on the upcoming campaign with an unmatched desire to put together her best one yet, building upon her pair of All-SCIAC First-Team performances.

"She is ready to go and is in the best shape of her life," Roche commented. 

The talent of the small but mighty junior class continues with Paige Press (La Jolla, CA), who serves as the Bulldogs' rock-steady competitor.   This 2012 Team MVP rattled off a 19-3 singles record, revealing her tennis consistency and persistent effort.  Expect her to continue deterring her opponents while making big contributions in both lineups for the Maroon and Gray this season. 

Last year, sophomores Julia Pollak (Holland, PA), Maddie Morton (Henderson, NV), and Sumida all erupted on the scene as first-year Bulldogs, making their presence known with impressive showings.  Revealing her determination and talent, Pollak unleashed an impressive 18-1 singles record, including 17 in a row.  Look for this intense competitor to continue raising the bar on her own contributions as she makes moves in singles and doubles.  Another solid competitor, Morton enters the season with an overall improved game, setting the stage for an exciting run with the Bulldogs.  Sumida gained experience high in the lineup and garnered Second-Team All-SCIAC recognition as one of two freshmen honored at the eight schools.  She looks forward to putting that to good use in the 2013 campaign as a viable option in both lineups.

Sophomore Alexa Anderson (Seattle, WA) rounds out the sophomore class as a reliable and supportive member of the team who adds to the depth with her overall improvements on the court. 

Finally, Redlands also welcomes a freshmen quartet that boasts a multitude of excellent qualities, thus solidifying the Bulldogs' strength.

"This is an awesome group," Roche commented.  "We are lucky to have them and look forward to seeing what they can do."

Rookie Natalie Etchegaray (Placentia, CA) stands out as the likely impact player of the class.  Her athleticism and competitiveness create a lethal combination as a versatile contender in both singles and doubles.

Freshmen Gabriela Vasquez (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) and Lauren Villanueva (El Segundo, CA) join the squad as valuable contributors due in part to their early doubles connection.  Vasquez is a talented and solid player with a strong juniors' background.  Villanueva looks to build upon her already improved abilities while utilizing her well-rounded approach to the sport.   Her southpaw swing supplies a great advantage on the court, especially in doubles.  Look for them to vie for early competitive opportunities.

Bursting with positivity, freshman Alyssa Gilbert (Mukilteo, WA) rounds out the newcomers as someone who brings out the best in everyone around her. 

Furthermore, the team also welcomes a pair of knowledgeable coaches to the ranks.  Four-time All-SCIAC First-Team selection, Rachael Miller, rejoins the squad as an assistant coach, offering her undeniable dedication and rapport as a true Bulldog.  Lindsay Puder makes her Redlands debut as a former NCAA Division I competitor at the College of William & Mary.  Her experience and positive energy bode well for the betterment of the team.

With their sights set on a high standard of excellence, the 2013 Redlands women's tennis team attacks the opportunities in front of them with a newfound passion and commitment.  Paired with their on-court talent, the Bulldogs sit in contention for a run at the top of the SCIAC and beyond, as they add to their already solid history of national acclaim.