Tritons Look to Maintain Streaks

    The UCSD women’s tennis team has a new look this year, with head coach Liz LaPlante welcoming seven freshmen into the mix. The Tritons hope to reclaim their spot atop the California Collegiate Athletic Association, which is an attainable goal as LaPlante has guided UCSD to four consecutive division titles and an impressive 40 straight wins in conference.

    Junior Ina Dan, who had a spectacular sophomore season, is now one of the veterans on the women’s tennis team, which is trying for a fifth straight undefeated conference record. (Will Parson/Guardian file)

    In addition to the win streak, UCSD made the CCAA All-Conference selections its own personal trophy case. LaPlante, who has been the head coach at UCSD for 28 years, took home Coach of the Year — her fourth — and fielded a stacked team that had four of the nine All-Conference First Team selections.

    Three of those women returned this season, with junior Ina Dan leading the way as UCSD’s top returnee. Dan had a memorable 2006-07 season, tying for the team lead with 14 wins in singles, and leading the team with 15 wins in doubles. Her versatility as a dual threat will be instrumental in fulfilling the Tritons’ hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament this year.

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    Joining her will be two fellow first-teamers, senior Justine Ang Fonte and sophomore Pooja Desai. Desai was named Freshman of the Year and was the only newcomer to make First-Team All Conference. It’s easy to make the first-team when you put up the kind of results Pooja did last year: As a singles player she was undefeated, going 6-0 as the No. 4-ranked singles player and then 3-0 at No. 3. LaPlante expects more of the same this year.

    Veterans of the women’s tennis team will be joined by an eclectic group of freshmen, who come to the program pressured to sustain the excellence that their predecessors have achieved in recent years.

    LaPlante is confident that UCSD can preserve its status as a juggernaut in the CCAA, even with all the newcomers. LaPlante called this incoming class “ the strongest group of players I’ve ever had all come at the same time.”

    According to LaPlante, it is the team’s combination of talent and depth that helps it excel.

    “All of them will impact the team,” she said. “There will be fierce competition, which will make it tough to determine who will be the top eight.”

    Despite all the Tritons’ talent, UCSD failed to earn a semifinalist slot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Western Regional that took place in Pomona on Sept. 27 and Sept. 28, the team’s first action of the young season. However, LaPlante is not concerned.

    “We don’t put a whole lot of significance on the tournament,” she said. “No one is ever playing their best tennis at the beginning of the season.”

    Part of the reason for the Tritons’ struggles was a foot injury Desai suffered just days before the tournament. Desai won her first match in the singles tournament over Kaitlin Woodridge of Cal Poly Pomona, 7-5, 6-2, but had to retire in the 16th round. The injury ultimately forced her to default both her singles and doubles matches. Desai’s doubles partner was Dan; the duo would have made a run if Desai had been healthy.

    The women of the tennis team will return to the courts for the UC Irvine Invitational, set to take place on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11. That tournament will conclude the fall season for the Triton team; the spring season starts on Feb. 2 when UCSD hits the road to face the Azusa Pacific University Cougars, a team that defeated the Tritons in the season opener last year. UCSD will look to avenge that defeat and start its season on the right foot this year. Alumni Day for both the men’s and women’s teams is Oct. 20.

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