The Cal Poly women’s tennis team won its first Big West Conference match this season after the team beat Pacific 5-2 on Sunday. For the first time since the team’s Feb. 12 loss to UC Davis, every Mustang was healthy enough to compete.
Head coach Damon Coupe said he was pleased to see his team break out of their losing streak and have sophomore Jennifer Cornea and freshman Ireen Kuipers back on the court, despite their injuries.
“It was a great effort,” Coupe said. “It was nice to have a full squad out there.”
In the team’s losses to Arizona and North Texas on Feb. 18 and 19 in Tucson, Ariz., the Mustangs played with only five players, and were forced to default one doubles position and one singles position, putting them at an immediate disadvantage.
“Essentially, you’re almost starting down 0-2, and that just puts a lot of pressure on our players,” Coupe said.
Six singles matches and three doubles matches require six athletes. One point is awarded for each singles win, and one point awarded to the side that wins two of the three doubles. The first to four points wins the match.
Cornea’s absence put the other players in a tougher position because they have to replace her at the top of the lineup, Coupe said.
Cornea won her singles match on Sunday, despite an injured heel.
“I was just pushing though (the pain) for the team,” Cornea said. “That was all that was in my mind.”
Coupe praised Cornea’s efforts to still perform well and said he was pleasantly surprised by her contribution to the Mustangs’ victory.
“We weren’t sure how much she could do because she really didn’t practice at all during the week,” Coupe said.
The coach also said the injury issues facing the team have not disappeared.
“The injuries are ongoing,” Coupe said. “They’re not healed up. They’re going to be something we’re going to have to deal with throughout the remainder of the year. We’re just doing the things we can.”
Coupe said he hopes this problem might be solved by recruiting an eighth player to the roster — a walk-on. He said finding someone to walk onto the team is a possibility, but she has to have United States Tennis Association (USTA) tournament experience, not just high school experience. After fruitlessly advertising to the tennis club on campus, the women’s tennis team issued a press release stating the Mustangs are looking to reinforce their lineup.
“What I’m looking to do is entertain the idea of someone coming on, it’s really like a safety net,” Coupe said. “It’s not something that I have to do, it’s something that I’m entertaining just in case of emergency, so that we’re not defaulting a position (in a match).”
So far, no candidates have contacted Coupe about the open roster spot. If Cornea’s and Kuipers’ injuries become too painful to play, Coupe said he fears the season will take a bad turn.
“If those two girls can’t play, we’re back to where we were last week (in Arizona),” Coupe said.
Psychology senior Jocelyn Davis said bringing in a new player is the best plan to ensure that the season continues to go well.
“It’s probably our best idea right now because you never know what’s going to happen with your team,” Davis said.
Until the squad is 100 percent healthy again, Davis and Coupe said they know that all they can do is perform as best as they can without complaining.
“(The team is) doing great. In Arizona we competed so hard and played so tough,” Coupe said. “We’re not viewing this as, ‘Oh, poor us, poor us.’ We’re like, okay, this is the hand we’re dealt, we’re going to go fight and compete hard.”
Davis said she agreed the injuries are merely a small inconvenience.
“(The injuries) are just a minor bump in the road,” Davis said.
Davis said she remains optimistic that her team will have a strong season and she plans to have a fun senior season.
“I love all the girls on the team, it’s so fun competing and training with them every day, I think we can do great things (this season),” Davis said.