KERRVILLE, TEXAS (Feb. 7, 2015) -- The Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) women's tennis team opened its season at the Schreiner University Invitational this past weekend.
Valerie Santos (FR/El Paso, Texas) captured third place in the Women's Flight 5 Singles. Sydney Coulter (SO/El Paso, Texas) finished in second place in the Women's Flight 6 Singles. Santos and Coulter came in second place in the Women's Flight 3 Doubles match.
Head Coach Sal Castillo said at the beginning of the spring season, "The women are going to have to work hard, as we are down to a six-player roster and that means fitness will be key."
He said he feels his team can compete in conference. "The women are going to be working at repeating last year's strong showing at conference."
The Saints will play their first matches at home on Feb. 20 against Schreiner. The University renovated the courts this past summer giving the team the opportunity to host tournaments on campus.
Castillo commented, "The courts are beautiful and meet NAIA requirements, so we plan on hosting several key matches at home. Unfortunately, with only three courts, it will be either men or women playing."
Castillo began the tennis program in 2008, and he's happy with how it has grown. "Personally, I am just getting to the point where I am seeing all the hard work my players put in starting to pay off. Our tennis program has established itself as a very positive academic and athletic role models, and new players coming on board are aware that it is not all about what happens on the court, but also in the classroom."
Although the team is just starting its official spring season, they have spent the fall and early part of this year conditioning and weight-training. "Conditioning is always at the top of the priority list," Castillo said. "It doesn't matter how well you hit the ball if you are too tired to run for it. We focus primarily on plyometrics and recovery."
There are no seniors on the women's team this year. Returners include Summer Almanza (JR/San Antonio, Texas), Sydney Coulter, Andrea Figueroa (SO/New Braunfels, Texas) and Lauren Zancketti (JR/Comfort, Texas).
"The great thing about the OLLU women is that they really enjoy being on the team. We have had women in the past who didn't look like they liked being out there. These women have a great attitude about playing and they understand the importance of giving it their best."
Newcomers include Ling Lin (FR/San Antonio, Texas) and Valerie Santos. "Valerie is going to be a strong contender for the No. 1 spot. She has to overcome experience issues, but she's a competitor so she will figure it out. Ling lacks experience, but from a personality standpoint, she is a team favorite."
Castillo indicated that the 2015 schedule will include several tournament round-robins. "I'm scheduling mostly [tournaments] within driving range, but the schedule is a tough one."
Joining Castillo on the coaching staff are former players Aaron Rodriguez and Kudakwashi, both OLLU alumnus. "Aaron and Kuda are great resources for the team from several standpoints. They graduated from OLLU playing tennis and going to school full time. They never complained; they worked hard, and they are coaches who lead by example. You can't ask for better coaches than that."
Castillo encourages the OLLU community to come out to watch them play now that they are able to compete on campus. "Win or lose, OLLU Saints tennis players will make you proud. They are exceptional sportsmen. You are going to see them give 110 percent each and every time they play."