SAN ANTONIO (Feb. 6, 2014) -- The Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) men's and women's tennis teams, led by head coach Sal Castillo, are geared up to begin their spring season with back-to-back matches this weekend.
On Friday, the Saints will travel to Kerrville to play against NCAA Division III Schreiner University, and on Saturday, the teams will play at home against NCAA Division II St. Edwards University.
Home for the Saints tennis teams is not at the OLLU campus, however. The Saints will be playing their home matches at the Thousand Oaks Family YMCA facilities located at 16103 Henderson Pass in San Antonio, 78232.
The women's team finished last season recording its first-ever post-season win when the Saints defeated John Brown University 5-2 in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Regional Tournament The women advanced to the semifinals round where they dropped five sets to Lewis & Clark State University.
The men's team also won its quarterfinals match, 5-0, against Southwestern Christian University. They then dropped five matches to Oklahoma Baptist University in the semifinals round.
Castillo returns for his sixth year as head coach for the two programs. According to him, the goal for this season is to have everyone ready to play his and her best tennis, when it is time for the regional conference tournament at the end of April.
"Our biggest goal for this season is for everyone to be in good shape, since that has always been our question mark going into the conference tournament and our last matches," explained Castillo. "I do want to thank our Cross-Country/Track Coach Stephen Sherman for letting our team come out and train with him. The conditioning he put us and the runners through in the fall really helped," said Castillo.
The Saints have one senior returning -- Leslie Cooper from San Antonio, a Capital One Academic All-District At-Large Team recipient last season. However, her playing time will be limited as she is student-teaching this semester.
Also returning to the women's team for her second year is Summer Almanza from San Antonio.
Returning for the men's team is junior Matt Ellis from El Paso, a Capital One Academic All-District At-Large Team recipient last season. Zahry Edmond from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, has returned to the team after taking two years off.
The team has added four men and two women to the teams this season. According to Castillo, the new members have given the teams depth that has not been there before.
"Having lost so many players from last year, we are not really rebuilding the program, but we have a lot more depth this year than we have had in the past, especially from number three to six in our men's team," explained Castillo.
Joining the men's team are freshmen Jacob Galaviz from El Paso Eastwood High School, Chance Leal from Karnes City High School and Bernando Pegas from Bage, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and Colegio Franciscano Espiritu Santo.
Also new to the men's team is junior Tennessee Wesleyan College transfer, Rodney Pineros from Bogota, Columbia.
The teams will play 15 matches this season. The teams will participate in the H-E-B Open Tournament that will be held at the San Antonio Country Club, Feb. 21-23. In addition, they will travel to Mesa, Ariz. for a spring break tournament, March 10-14, sponsored by Mesa Community College.
"I scheduled the matches this season clustered together so that we could get conditioned to play back-to-back matches, plus we will have five back-to-back matches in Arizona, as well," stated Castillo.
The teams will play seven of their matches at the Saints' new home court at the Thousand Oaks Family YMCA. The facility includes 10 tennis courts and is, according to Castillo, an excellent facility with bleachers that make it possible for spectators to come and cheer on the two teams.
Joining Castillo as a graduate assistant coach this season is former Saints player Aaron Rodriguez. Playing three years of tennis for the Saints, Rodriguez received a degree in Computer Information Systems and Security in May of 2012. Rodriguez is currently enrolled at OLLU, pursuing a master's degree in Information Systems and Security.
According to Rodriguez, he wants to bring more consistency as well as structure to the players and that his philosophy of tennis goes hand in hand with that of Coach Castillo's.
"Everyone needs a little bit of discipline and I'm a health nut so I'm trying to pass that on to the players so they can take care of themselves. It's good to learn good habits early," explained Rodriguez. "Coach Sal and I are both the same way. We might be born in different generations but we still have the same ideals as far as work ethic goes."
Going through the program himself, Coach Castillo knows that Rodriguez will come in with the knowledge of what it takes to become successful both on and off the court.
"He is familiar with the program and he knows exactly what is going to be necessary to win at conference and that's always good because there's no guess work from his part. He knows what needs to be done," said Castillo.
The latest stories, stats and photos regarding the OLLU men's and women's tennis teams will be available on the Saints web site, and on the official Saints social media sites, including Twitter (OLLUSaints), Facebook (OLLUSaintsAthletics) and Instagram (olluniversity_saints).