Navy Women's Tennis Looks to Get Over Final Hurdle in 2012
Jan. 18, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- In just its third year of competing as a varsity tennis program, the Navy women's tennis team has already established itself as one of the top programs in the Patriot League. After reaching the finals of the 2011 Patriot League Tournament, head coach Keith Puryear and the Midshipmen look to build off last year's success and go one step further in 2012.
"We made some pretty big strides last year, advancing to the conference final. This year the challenge will be to maintain the momentum we gained," said Puryear, who was named the 2011 Patriot League Coach of the Year and owns a 35-14 dual-meet record in two Division I seasons at Navy. "We had a couple pretty significant losses in Amanda Griffin and Brittney Boucher, but I think we have a couple of plebes that have shown that they are prepared to step up. Freshmen Gabby Winter and Noelle Kaufmann had strong fall seasons and I think Abby Shewalter, who struggled some in the fall, has great potential. Everyone in the conference has taken steps to improve and its going to be important that we work hard and let the results come as they may."
Navy had another strong fall season, playing very well at the Bill & Sandra Moore Invitational, Hampton Roads Collegiate Invitational and the ITA / Atlantic Region Championships. Freshman Gabby Winter led the Midshipmen with a 10-6 record, while junior Emani Decquir tallied a 7-3 mark. Nine players won at least four matches during the fall and several returnees showed improvement from last spring to the fall season.
"There is always a learning curve in the fall, particulary with the freshmen. We just don't get to play as much as a lot of other schools. We start off slowly in the fall for the most part and that was the case again this year, but I think we started off well ahead this year than where we have been in previous fall seasons," said Puryear. "I think we made pretty good progress in some areas that we tried to address. Gabby Winter had an extremely successful fall semester -- probably one of the best we have had since we have had the program. Emani, Erin and Darien had really strong falls and took steps in getting better. Last year Darien, played No. 4 singles and during the fall, she played the equivalent of No. 1 and held her own against very good players. All in all, we had a very productive fall."
"Having no seniors on the roster won't be a problem. We have always been from the school of thought that everyone on the team is a leader, regardless of class," said Puryear. "I think these guys have had to take on that role from the first day they arrived at the Academy. I think they'll do great leading the team and will have a much better idea of what its going to take that next step. I think we are hungry and want more. The junior class is going to do a great job setting an example for the rest of the team."
Navy is coming off a 22-10 season and 3-0 Patriot League regular-season mark (5-1 including the Tournament). After reaching the league semifinals in just its first year as a varsity program, the Mids advanced to the finals, falling to Army, 4-0, in their second varsity season. Many of the matches in the tournament final had key moments that could have swung momentum into Navy's favor. Puryear is hoping that experience can help the team if it were to be in the situation again.
"You have to continue to work hard. After that, the experience of playing in the final last year will help us immensely and help us take the next step. The difference is once you get there, every mistake gets magnified and part of it is experience. You need to understand the dynamics involved and have self belief," added Puryear. "Last year, Army had the experience and that carried them through in tough spots. There was a period during the match where it could have gone either way. Army's experience took over and we weren't prepared to step through the door. A lot of that can be overcome by working hard on a daily basis and if we can do that, the results will take care of themselves."
Puryear also expects Winter (10-6), Kaufmann (5-5) and Shewalter (3-5) to push for a spot in the top six. Winter had one of the top fall seasons in school history, posting the most wins by an individual during the fall season with a 10-6 record.
"I think Gabby was the biggest surprise during the fall season. You never have an idea of what plebes will bring. They go through so much and to see her step up the way she did was amazing," said Puryear. "She beat a young lady from George Washington that played No. 1 last year for them. That was a huge eye-opener for all of us. She has had a great attitude and a great work ethic. She is really hungry and hopefully she can maintain that.
"I also think Darien had a very good fall. The results weren't necessarily stellar if you look at just wins and losses, but she played some of the top players in the region and country and she did a really good job holding her own. I really like her attitude and she stays so even-keel on the court. We are expecting big things from her," added Puryear. "I think Emani had a very good fall. She won a flight at Hampton Roads and kept getting better as the fall progressed. I think Erin Snook also had a good fall. She started slow, but really made great strides towards being the type of player she can be. It's critical that we have that core and nucleus from them for the upcoming season. We have a lot more depth than we did last year and that will be critical to our success."
Navy opens the 2012 spring season this Saturday (Jan. 21) against St. Francis (Pa.) at 1:00 pm at the Tose Family Tennis Center at the Brigade Sports Complex in Annapolis. It will be the first of 18 home matches for the Midshipmen this year. The season concludes with the Patriot League Tournament on April 20-22 in Bethlehem, Pa.
# GO NAVY #