Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series previewing the UC Davis fall sports.
And now it begins …
Even though a 21-match spring dual schedule is five months away, the UC Davis women’s tennis team has been out, sharpening its racquets so to speak, eager to get on with the fall schedule, which features three tune-up tournaments.
“We’re looking to build a base in the fall,” longtime Aggie coach Bill Maze told The Enterprise Wednesday. “We’d like to get (the team) in great shape now … in order to help me set the lineup and see how they are in competition. The fall is good for evaluating where we’re going to be.”
Despite the loss of last year’s seniors Lauren Curry, Ellie Edles and Zoe Davidson, Maze likes how the 2013-14 season is coming to form.
“We still have that experience with our three returning seniors,” says Maze, entering his 19th season with UCD.
Tustin native Megan Heneghan should again be near the top of the ladder.
Maze says the 5-foot-10 Beckman High graduate has a powerful serve that is just part of a tool box that should see her improve on a personal 11-13 singles mark — coincidentally the same overall record her team carded.
Heneghan played primarily at No. 1, going 7-11 against opponents’ best. She also was 9-13 in her doubles assignments.
In Big West Conference play last year, the Aggies were 4-5. Seeded seventh in BWC tournament play, they moved all the way to the quarterfinals before bowing to nine-time league champion Long Beach State.
Maze believes the seeding at No. 7 was deceptive. Four schools tied for fourth.
“Our season wasn’t bad,” Maze continues. “We lost a lot of 4-3 matches (five). In the Big West this spring? I can see us being in the top third.”
To that end, two other seniors — Nicole Koehly and Melissa Kobayakawa — are players to watch; Aggies who should be asked to play up while continuing their inspired tennis of a year ago.
Playing as high as No. 3 singles, Kobayakawa went 19-7. Koehly was 16-7. Maze is hoping the duo can repeat those lofty marks as they advance in the seedings.
“Nicole can beat almost anyone,” her coach says. “I like the fact that she has a lot of weapons. I can see her … getting us some wins up high.”
Kobayakawa, from Cupertino, gives Maze confidence, not only in how his team will perform on the court, but that UCD will be getting solid senior leadership.
Heneghan and Kobayakawa had some success (6-5) as doubles partners, but Koehly (El Molena of Santa Ana) and junior Layla Sanders — a former El Cerrito star — played a lot as a duo last season and Maze expects the pair “to be our No. 1 doubles.”
“When they were on, they were impressive,” adds Maze, noting their Big West 4-4 record was good enough for league honorable mention nods.
Sophomore Tiffany Pham, a 2010 Sac-Joaquin Section singles champ while at Laguna Creek, is a versatile player who was 8-6 solo as a freshman and paired with departed Edles in doubles. (They were 7-17).
“She didn’t play that much (in singles),” Maze continues. “But she might have been the best No. 7 player in the Big West. She’s champing at the bit and I see her in our starting lineup.”
Claire Jaramishian (a sophomore from Fresno) was a spot starter in her first year.
Frederique Sleiffer and Samantha Martino are new on campus and Maze is delighted to have the unique freshmen aboard.
Sleiffer is a European standout who hails from Brussels, Belgium. She sent her video to Maze and then, with her family, met the coach during an Aggie trip to Oregon.
“Unfortunately, I’m not flying to Europe (to recruit) yet,” the coach says with a chuckle. “But she visited on her own. She has phenomenal grades, her English is fantastic. I wouldn’t go with an international player unless she’s going to be OK (with her new surroundings).
“She hits the ball very hard. She’s (5-foot-10) and reminds me of Megan a little bit.”
Another complement to the lineup is Katy, Texas, native Martino, who was recommended by Maze’s old Davis Cup Junior Team coach Bill Glaves. The Aggie coach has nothing but respect for his mentor’s opinion:
“I think he knows more about the game than anyone I ever met. When Bill told me she was a ‘diamond in the rough,’ well, you get an endorsement like that from him … it’s almost enough.”
However, Maze did get a couple of chances to see Martino in action and that was plenty to convince him.
Aggie women will be featured in the Nike Invitational (Sept. 27-29) in Berkeley, then play in the St. Mary’s Invitational (Oct. 11-13) before competing at Stanford (ITA Northwest Regionals) on Oct. 18-22.
Notes: Former Aggie and longtime Maze assistant Sara Jackson (Class of 2001) returns to the local coaching ranks. Jackson had been the American River College head coach. Phil Cello — another ex-UCD player — is back as volunteer assistant. … Maze just met with the Davis Tennis Club, hoping to better link the two programs in the future. When the sixth annual Aggie Pro-Am comes to Marya Welch Tennis Center on Sept. 21, it will be a chance for all comers to match up against current and ex-Aggies in a pressureless, fun atmosphere. Lunch, side events for prizes and T-shirts to all participants are included in a $100 donation to Aggie women’s and men’s tennis programs. Interested in sponsorship or playing? Contact Ashley Williams at 530-754-2593.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.