Long Beach State Tennis Begins Dual Match Schedule Saturday vs. San Francisco
Beach Tennis begins its regular season on Saturday at 11 a.m. against the visiting Dons.
Long Beach, Calif. -
The perennial Big West champions are back in action this weekend as Beach Tennis opens its 2016 regular season this Saturday, welcoming San Francisco to Rhodes Tennis Center. It projects to be another strong year for the 49ers, who are returning five of their top six players from last season. Karolina Rozenberg represents the only departure for the Beach, while the top four singles players—all upperclassmen—return.
“It’s nice to have a veteran team,” admits head coach Jenny Hilt-Costello as she enters her 19th season at Long Beach State. “The last couple years we’ve had a pretty young squad, but that young talented squad has now turned into a veteran talented squad. I think we’re seeing some things out of the returners this year as far as their level of play where they’re starting to take that next step…I think especially from the returners in the lineup, you’re going to see some better tennis from them and hopefully you’ll see some better results from us.”
LBSU starts the regular season ranked No. 39 by the ITA, but the team has visions of moving up in those national rankings this season.
“We sat down as a team and we put some goals together, and the girls really want to get to Top 30 this year,” Hilt-Costello says. “I think that’s a reasonable goal for us given that we finished (last season) at No. 40 and we’ve lingered in that area the last four to five years. I think breaking into the Top 30 is really a reasonable goal and I think it’s the next step for us.”
One of the players leading that charge will be Long Beach State’s lone senior, Ebba Unden. The Stockholm native enters the year seventh on the program’s all-time wins list with 151 total victories, including her 14 victories during the fall and winter tour schedule. Unden will once again slot in the lineup as the No. 2 singles player for the Beach and will continue to factor in doubles as well. Beyond her play on the court, she will provide valuable leadership on an already experienced roster.
“Ebba just has great energy, a great work ethic, she’s a good teammate; all around she brings everything you could ask for from a player to the program,” says her coach. “I know she wants to have her best season yet to finish out and we want to help her do that. I know given her attitude and how she works, if she wants her best season yet, she’ll get it.”
Junior Maeva Razakasoa is back for her third straight season as the No. 1 singles player for the Beach, looking to continue her winning ways. She is already in the Top 15 in career wins at Long Beach State with nearly two full seasons remaining. The 2014 Big West Freshman and Player of the Year has already scored wins over ranked opponents during the pre-season (No. 125 Lauren Chypyha of Wisconsin and No. 62 Julia O’Loughlin of Denver) and has a good chance to return to the national singles rankings. Beyond that, qualification for the NCAA Division I Singles Tournament could certainly be attainable for Razakasoa, who would become the first 49er to participate in that tournament since 2012.
“I think postseason is always a goal for Maeva,” Hilt-Costello says. “As a coach we want to help her get there, but that’s not what (assistant coach) Anais (Dallara) and I are focused on. Our biggest thing is getting her to play her best tennis and hopefully playing her best tennis is going to result in those opportunities that would get her to the postseason.”
Razakasoa headlines what is an extremely successful junior class for the Beach. Laura Eales, Julie Gerard and Hayley Thompson join her as juniors, and they have all earned tremendous experience over the last two seasons in Long Beach. Hilt-Costello continues to see development from the group as they head into the second half of their college careers and she expects better tennis from each of them.
The biggest improvement of the preseason, however, has been from the team’s lone freshman, Georgie Sanders. The Buckingham, England native hasn’t had much time in the Long Beach State program, but she has made great strides in a short amount of time, according to her coach.
“Given how she arrived in August—a solid player but needed a little bit of grooming and some fine-tuning—we’ve seen a huge, huge improvement from her in four months,” Hilt-Costello says of Sanders. “We’re really excited to see where that learning curve goes over the next four months. We’re looking to see some good things from her in singles and in doubles.”
Sophomore Ella Monsey has also had some strong performances this fall as she challenges to crack the starting rotation, while classmates Alex Jones and Antonella Santeusanio have had to overcome some injuries during the preseason.
Long Beach will face a challenging schedule this season, with a total of 10 opponents ranked in the Top 75 in the nation. Three of those teams—Pepperdine tied for 18th, Arizona State at 27, and Dartmouth ranked 32—are ahead of LBSU in the rankings.
The 2016 dual match season gets underway this Saturday at 11 a.m. as the 39th-ranked Beach host San Francisco. The Dons boast a nationally ranked player in Andrea Ka, who is No. 101 in the latest ITA release. Long Beach State is 5-0 all-time against San Francisco.
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