Women's Tennis in Good Shape in Revamped BIG EAST
Aug 21, 2013
CHICAGO – Always a threat to make a run at the BIG EAST Conference title, Mark Ardizzone believes his women’s tennis program remains in a strong position to be a frontrunner in the newly revamped league in 2013-14.
“You know, we’ve been one of the big-wigs and now we could maybe be the most hunted,” said Ardizzone. “That’s something we’ll have to adjust to, but I think if we’re healthy we’re going to be one of the teams to beat. And I think that’ll be a good thing for us. We’ve already been up there, so nothing really changes for us except our preparation.”
While some perennial contenders for the conference title have moved on, Ardizzone believes the conference outlook is solid for the future with the additions of Xavier, Butler and Creighton – in addition to continually improving programs throughout the BIG EAST.
“Xavier is a good team, Marquette is a young team that’s really improving and Georgetown is a good team, so it’ll be nice to see some of the other teams have a chance to step up,” said Ardizzone, who enters his 18th season in 2013-14. “It’s going to be tough for us to win, but if we stay healthy and do what we need to do we should be a big factor.”
Injuries were a big roadblock for the Blue Demons last season, although the team still experienced its share of success. During the season, the team knocked off two ITA-ranked opponents and saw two players named All-BIG EAST. DePaul also nearly earned its second trip to the conference championship match, falling to Notre Dame in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals before eventually claiming third-place.
This season, the Blue Demons return all but one letter-winner to the roster and will hopefully have the benefit of better health from several key contributors as the conference tournament moves to the site of the U.S. Open next spring.
“All 10 teams are going to Flushing Meadows, N.Y., which will be exciting,” said Ardizzone. “It should be a great experience for our kids. Both men’s and women’s will be combined again, so it should be a nice event. We’ve had some good conference calls and I’m getting some good feedback, so it should be interesting.”
While top-spot stalwart Matea Cutura has left the program, Ardizzone believes the talent remaining on the team is plenty good and will only benefit from more continuity and experience – all of last season’s success came without a single senior on the roster.
The way things are stacking up reminds Ardizzone of the best season in program history.
“The best year we ever had at DePaul was 2010 when there were no new players – we were top 30 that year, it was our first NCAA appearance. We lost our number one player and I brought no one else in,” said Ardizzone. “I have the same feeling right now as I did then. I think the chemistry is remarkable and we’re really going to pull together and do some things.”
For such lofty expectations to hold up, however, the Blue Demons will need someone to step up and claim the number one singles position vacated by Cutura as well as solidify the doubles lineup.
A healthy season from 2012 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Jasmin Kling will help, as the talented player from Heilbronn, Germany did not play a singles match in the spring season. Full seasons from Rebeca Mitrea and Carolin Neumann, who have both shown glimpses of being impact players, should also help solidify the singles lineup.
All-BIG EAST junior Patricia Fargas and senior captain Kelsey Lawson, as well as team MVP Jarret Fisher are all back and figure to play major roles in any team success this season. It could be sophomore Ana Vladutu, however, according to Ardizzone, who makes the biggest jump and becomes a top-of-the-lineup singles player this year.
“Ana [Vladutu] is having a great summer,” said Ardizzone. “She’s qualified for two main draws of pro tournaments and won a round last week. She’s probably played more than anybody and might be ready to take a big step forward.”
As with last year, though, the strength of the Blue Demons will be its depth – something Ardizzone hopes will hold up through the entire season this time around.
“I just see it as an incredible team,” said Ardizzone. “Someone’s going to have to step up to those top couple spots and first doubles. But if we can get somebody to do that, we’ll be a very good team.”
“Our strength last year was that we were so deep – then, we weren’t. We had a lot of kids playing with nicks and bruises that we would have normally been able to rest, but they did a great job. And some of them, who may not have played a lot otherwise, got a lot of valuable experience last season. If we’re healthy, that’s going to be big for us.”