Credit: Diego Rivera | Mustang News

Cal Poly Women’s Tennis was on their way to one of the best seasons in program history with a 9-2 start in 2020. The team’s nine wins surpassed their win total in any of the last seven seasons. However, the Mustangs never reached double digit wins as their season was cancelled on March 13 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We felt pretty good about where our team was headed,” head coach Katharina Winterhalter said. “Obviously the record is one of the best records in a few years, especially the start to the season… we were excited about how things were going, and it was unfortunate.”

The season cancellation came one day after the Big West Conference indefinitely suspended all spring sports.

Senior Susanne Boyden said receiving the news was “tough” because it meant she had played her last match ever as a collegiate athlete.

“I just wasn’t ready for it to end,” Boyden said. “I think being a senior, it was just different, it was kind of over and I wouldn’t really get closure of how our season was going to play out.”

The Mustangs rattled off six straight wins to begin the season, dominating their opponents with a compiled score of 31-5 during that stretch. They matched last season’s win total of seven after just eight matches. After falling on the road to 26th-ranked Arizona State, Cal Poly recorded wins against Grand Canyon and Louisiana Tech to reach a record of 9-2.

A large part of the team’s success came from the freshman trio of Melissa LaMette, Delanie Dunkle and Dominique Stone. The three first-year players combined for a record of 17-2 in singles play as LaMette produced the best record on the team at 8-0. 

“I’m really happy and impressed with how the freshmen really stayed unfazed by anything that was going on,” Winterhalter said. “We didn’t get caught up in the results and we didn’t really talk about how well everything’s gone… it’s great to have that class and obviously we want to build on that momentum.”

Boyden said the talented freshmen class and experienced seniors set a strong culture of what is expected of the program in the years to come.

“I think they followed our work ethic, and we helped show them the ropes of what we needed to do to be successful,” Boyden said. “I’m super excited for how good they’re going to get.”

“I think [the freshmen] were really sad not to get to finish the year with that senior group. I think they’re really close even though they’re in such different stages of their college lives,” Winterhalter said.

Boyden was a part of the first recruiting class under Winterhalter at Cal Poly. The senior received Second Team All-Conference honors in her junior year after going 8-4 in dual matches.

“I feel like I’ve just grown so much as a player and a person over these last four years and I think our coaches did a really good job, really making sure that they cared about us as people, which I think was really important,” Boyden said.

The team is finding ways to stick together despite the nationwide shelter-in-place order. They conduct weekly meetings on Zoom and coaches have provided workouts for the players to perform at home.

Cal Poly ended the season with a 38-15 record in singles and a 19-8 record in doubles play. The freshman team of LaMette and Dunkle recorded the most doubles wins with five, while Monaghan and LaMette paced the Mustangs with eight wins apiece in singles. 

Although their season was cut short, Cal Poly will look to build off its recent success when competitive play returns. 

“I think once we do get back onto the tennis court, I do feel that people are going to be even more appreciative and even more excited to play,” Winterhalter said. “I think our program is in a good place in terms of the culture of it… as long as we keep that, I think we’re just going to keep working, and then we’ll see where it takes us.”

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