Kane looking only for improvement

Garrick Hodge Assistant Sports Editor

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Chris Kane realizes that his Western Illinois women’s tennis team isn’t likely to compete for the Summit League conference tournament this spring. Instead, the second-year Leathernecks head coach is after something less concrete: progress.

“Our outlook for this year will be their improvement,” Kane said. “I know we are asking a lot of them, and I want them to just go out and play every point to the best of their ability.”

The Leathernecks will feature eight new players, with all of them having little-to-no college playing experience.

Western hosted the Hinds-Kellogg Classic last Oct. 7-8, the only meet that the team competed in during the fall. The meet was highlighted by the efforts of junior team captain Jessica Theobald and freshman Jessica Callahan, who recorded an eight-game pro set 8-5 victory over Roosevelt University at No. 2 doubles.

Kane has been working hard to get the Western women’s tennis team on track toward being a winning program.

“The women’s team is one that has had to be restructured since I got here, and we are in the process of doing that,” Kane said.

“These young ladies are going to have some stiff competition,” he added. “They play a nationally ranked (University of) Illinois team right off the bat this weekend, and it’s going to be an eye-opener.”

In the Summit League, reigning conference and tournament winner Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne will be a great challenge for Western.

IPFW finished 27-4 last season, including a perfect 8-0 in the Summit League. While the Mastodons must replace four-time Summit League Defensive Player of the Year Amy Recht, they still boast a pair of all-league selections in Caterina Kiefer (23-3 in singles play) and Alex Forsyth (16-7).

Summit League runner-up Southern Utah (16-3, 7-1) welcomes back three all-league selections: Danica Ingwaldson (17-2), Ksusha (Nazarova) Johnson (13-5) and Olia Tatarchenko (18-1). Alex Ivanova (14-4), the Summit League Newcomer of the Year last season, will be returning for the Thunderbirds as well.

Missouri-Kansas City (12-13, 6-2) finished third in the league last season, and returns Laura Bouet (15-9).

Despite the high level of competition that Western will be facing this season, Kane said that he is only looking for their best efforts. “I understand that they are playing some tough competition,” Kane said, “and I understand that they haven’t played any college matches before except our one invitational in the fall.”

Kane said he doesn’t have any firm objectives for this season other for the girls to improve and work hard.

“I haven’t put any hard-and-fast number on anything,” Kane said. “I am solely looking for improvement from them. I think they are excited to play Division I tennis. … it’s going to be important to keep their confidence up, and keep their attitudes strong as we continue to make this a better program.”

Kane also said that he is focusing on recruiting new players for the future.

“Part of my job,” Kane said, “(which) is as important as what goes on (on) the court, is who I recruit going forward. (Recruiting is a) great emphasis (of) our program.”

In addition to Theobald and Callahan, freshman Ashely Rettger, sophomores Julie Schwartz, Kelly Wyffells, Roxana Stancioiu and Yessenia Mejia, and junior Megan Pazdernick are all expected to see plenty of action this season.

“I want them to use practice as a great source of improvement,” Kane said. “I want them to be ready to play all the time. Those are all clichés, I know, but I don’t want to get down on them when they play somebody who is at a different level. I wont let them get discouraged.”

Western will open the season today at 3 p.m. at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and plays again Saturday at noon against Illinois.

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