The women’s tennis squad will take a No. 3 seed into the Big West tennis championships this weekend with an opening round match against No. 6 University of the Pacific.
The Mustangs (11-9, 5-2) topped the Tigers 6-1 earlier this season and stand a good chance of playing the winner of UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton, with the Anteaters favored to move on. With the exception of UC Irvine and Long Beach State, the Mustangs rolled through Big West competition and coach Hugh Bream is brimming with hope.
“My favorite thing about this team is that everyone competes with their heart every match,” team captain and graduating senior Samantha Waller said. “This is the hardest working team I have been on during my time at Cal Poly.”
Bream is happy with the girls’ progress this year and is confident a tough non-conference schedule will play a key role for the Mustangs.
“We’ve had a good season,” he said. “We have played a great schedule; seven of the nine losses are to teams ranked in the top 25 nationally.”
He cited Waller’s leadership as key in the team’s success, calling her a “really exceptional Cal Poly student athlete.” She led the team to its first Big West title, first trip to the NCAA tournament, and has been a “phenomenal captain.”
While this will be the end of Waller’s college tennis career, she remains upbeat as the season winds down.
“I’m looking forward to the Big West Championships and playing my last few final matches of college tennis,” she said. “This is what we have worked so hard for the whole season. I’m just excited to be part of it.”
A major memory of the team’s experience this year is simply its cohesiveness and friendship.
“My favorite part is just the team itself; it’s very rare that the whole team gets along,” senior Sheila Lewis said. “We love hanging out with each other and I think that makes a better team.”
This sentiment is echoed by junior Carol Erickson.
“I believe that our team’s biggest strength is our constant support for one another,” she said. “We cheer each other on no matter what and we are always there for each other.”
Three wins and the Mustangs will win the Big West title, Although nationally-ranked No. 52 UC Irvine and No. 28 Long Beach State are both standing in the way of Cal Poly. Erickson is confident the Mustangs can win.
“As the season draws to an end, I think I speak for all of us when I say that it is not nearly over,” Erickson said. “We are going into the Big West Championships with the strong desire to win it and go on to Nationals. I think we are extremely capable of winning Big West this year.”