Tritons hope to take conference crown

    Diligent, hard-hitting and encouraging ‹ these are three adjectives that describe this year’s UCSD women’s tennis team. In less than a month, the Tritons will be able to prove to themselves and to their division what they’ve been practicing so hard for.

    Rachel A. Garcia
    Guardian file

    It’s been a year since the Tritons ended their run at the regional finals, and UCSD is anxiously awaiting the start of a new season and a chance to break the three-year pattern of finishing second in the conference. Last year, the Tritons finished the season ranked 19th ‹ their lowest ranking in Division II. This year, the goal isn’t just to win the conference, but to go to nationals, finish in the top 10 and improve on their 17-6 finish from last year. Determined? Definitely.

    Led by its captains, seniors Julie Westerman and Kristina Jansen and sophomore Allison Ishii, the team has a wide range of experience, including six returning starters and seven talented freshmen.

    “”The returning players have improved a lot and become physically and mentally stronger,”” head coach Liz LaPlante said. “”The girls are definitely competitive, but push each other to improve and work very hard. Also, the top freshmen have come in with a lot of talent and tournament experience.””

    Junior Jasmin Dao also likes the team’s freshmen additions.

    “”We are going to come back stronger and more experienced this year,”” Dao said. “”Our freshmen are all great players and will bring a lot of talent to the team this year.””

    The Tritons are adding to their arsenal of talent. Earlier in the preseason, UCSD played in the Individual Cal Poly Pomona Tournament in October and in the UC Irvine Invitational Tournament in November. The Tritons finished especially well considering that many of their starters were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.

    The team usually travels with just eight players: six singles players, who also pair up to play doubles, and two doubles specialists.

    The team is expecting to reach its goal, one game at a time; starting with a tune-up match against National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics opponent Alliant International University on Feb. 4 at UCSD. Then, on March 3, UCSD will face rival Cal Poly Pomona and then run into some tough matches against three strong Hawaii schools toward the end of the month.

    Dao also likes the energy of this year’s Triton squad.

    “”We are a very positive group; at our practices we are always yelling motivational comments,”” Dao said. “”Half of the team is loud and spirited, and the other half is more quiet, which makes for a great dynamic.””

    The team also has second-year assistant coach Timmer Willing has helped the team build better stamina and strength on the court and also develop their strategy.

    This year will also mark the 25th year of coaching for LaPlante. The team’s strength not only lies in its talent on the court, but off the court as well.

    “”Our strength is our team chemistry,”” Dao said. “”We all get along very well. We’re friends on and off the court, and we spend so much time together. We’re all hard workers that just love to play tennis.””

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